Cases involving challenges to searches are some of the most litigated issues in criminal law. There are literally thousands upon thousands of published opinions by federal and state appellate courts dealing with search issues.
Let’s say that one day you are home watching television and someone knocks on your door. When you open the door, you are surprised to see two police investigators asking for permission to search your home. How do you respond? Under the Fourth Amendment, the only way a law enforcement officer can legally search your home is if they have a warrant issued by a magistrate or judge, or if you consent to a search.
You do not and you should not consent to a search, even if you know you have nothing to hide. A search can take hours to conclude and usually involves numerous officers rummaging through your personal items. Oh and by the way, they do not have to clean up after themselves. You are the one who must put things back in order.
Let’s say that your spouse or roommate goes to the door and agrees to a warrantless search. What are your rights? Well, according to a case from the U.S. Supreme Court, you can stop the search by telling the officers that you object to the search.
Let’s imagine that your friend who owns a house agrees to let you live with him until you find a place of your own. Do you have a right to object to the search even though you have a lesser possessory interest than your friend? After all, he owns the place and you’re just a guest living there. A case from the 6th Circuit Court of Federal Appeals says that you have the right to stop the search by objecting to it, even if your friend agrees to allow the search.
Can a House Guest Give Consent to Search?
What rights, if any, do you have if while you are away from your home, a house guest who is merely visiting for the day answers your front door and consents to a search in your absence? If the searching officers act on the belief that the person who consented has the authority to agree to the search, the search will likely withstand a motion to suppress unless you can establish that they acted in bad faith.
How about a scenario where workmen are remodeling the interior of your home while you are away and officers come by and ask them for consent to search your house? In this scenario it would likely be found that it was unreasonable for the officers to conclude that the workers had the authority to consent to a search.
The best practice is for the officers to determine the authority of the person they are requesting the consent from. Their failure to do so may result in evidence from the search being suppressed by a judge.
For any questions regarding search and seizure issues in the State of North Carolina, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.