Warrantless searches of homes by the police are generally presumed to be unreasonable. Evidence that is gathered through an unreasonable search will generally be inadmissible in a criminal case. However, there are exceptions to the requirement for a search warrant. One of these exceptions is consent. Police officers normally will not have to get warrants to search homes when someone who appears to have the authority to consent to a search gives consent. When the homeowner consents to a search, the search will normally be considered to be lawful. However, the question of whether a search is legal will be more difficult when somebody who is not the homeowner gives consent. At DiCindio Law, we can help to determine whether a warrantless search was legal and file motions to suppress unlawfully collected evidence.
Landlord consent to searches
When police officers secure search warrants from a judge, they are legally authorized to enter and search apartments or homes. They are normally not allowed to search a tenant’s home when the landlord consents because it is the tenant’s home.
In some situations, a landlord can give consent to the police to search through a rental home or an apartment. For example, a landlord may let police into an apartment when there is an emergency. A landlord can also consent to officers searching other portions of an apartment building other than an apartment.
When a renter has vacated an apartment or has been evicted, a landlord can allow the police to search the apartment. However, how far along the tenant and landlord are in the process of eviction will be critical in determining whether a landlord’s consent is valid. If a landlord has given notice of eviction to the tenant, but the eviction has not yet taken place, the consent will not be valid.
Consent by other residents
Other residents of a home can give the police consent to search. However, if a roommate consents to a search, he or she will not have the authority to allow the police to search the other roommate’s separate bedroom.
Consent by residents to search the belongings of guests
The main resident of a home can give consent to search his or her home. If the resident has a guest who is temporarily staying in the home, he or she cannot give consent to the police to search inside of an item or area to which the resident does not have valid access such as the guest’s suitcase or purse. If a purse is left sitting open in the living room with drugs visible inside of it, the drugs will likely be admissible in a criminal case. However, if the purse was found in the guest bedroom and was closed, the drugs inside of it will likely be inadmissible if the police only had the resident’s consent to search the home.
Consent given by guests
A guest who is temporarily staying in the home but who does not live there can give the police consent to search the areas in which he or she has control over or joint access to use. However, a guest generally does not have the legal authority to let the police search throughout the house. The question of whether the search was lawful will turn on whether the police officers had a reasonable belief that the guest had normal access to other areas of the house that are searched.
Consent given by children
When a child gives consent to the police to search a home, the lawfulness of the search will depend on the circumstances. The court might consider things like how old the child is and how much of the home the child is allowed to use. For example, the consent given by a teenager who lives in a home while his or her parents are out of town might be considered to be valid. Even if a child has the authority to consent to a police search of a home, the police will likely not be able to search through everything. For example, the police officers may not have the authority to open a locked safe that the child cannot access.
Consent by housekeepers
Housekeepers are normally not considered to have the authority to consent to a search of the homes in which they work. A search might be considered to be unlawful when the police know that the housekeeper does not live in the home, is not allowed to use the home however he or she wants, and is only given access to the home at the homeowner’s discretion.
When a housekeeper lives in the home and gives consent to the police to search the areas that he or she controls, the search may be lawful. It is more likely that a person like a live-in nanny or housekeeper who gives the police consent to search will be considered to have the authority to do so when he or she has a greater ability to access the various areas of the home.
Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer
While police are legally authorized to search homes when they have obtained valid search warrants, there are limits on their ability to conduct warrantless home searches. If you have been charged with a crime after your home was searched by the police, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law. We can evaluate the circumstances of the search and explain the rights that you might have. If the police conducted a warrantless search after they obtained consent to search your home from someone else, the search might be considered to be illegal. In that case, your attorney may file a motion to suppress all of the evidence that was seized from your home during the illegal search. If the evidence is suppressed, the charges against you might be dismissed. Contact our law firm today by calling us at 610-430-3535 or by submitting your information to us using our online contact form
The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes to the law that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments or the most complete legal issues for all cases These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.