Who Can Consent to a Search for Someone Else?

Locate a Local Criminal Lawyer

Find Lawyers in Other Categories
Most Common Defense and Criminal Law Issues

Who Can Consent to a Search for Someone Else?

The police generally need a search warrant to search areas in which a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy." For instance, when searching a person’s home, the police usually need a warrant, because a reasonable person would expect a certain level of privacy in their home. Without a warrant, the police can’t search a person’s home (although there are certain exceptions to this, for instance, if a person consents to the search).

A common question is whether someone can consent to a search for the property of someone else (known as a third party consent search). The general rule here is that the police can search property if someone who has control over the property consents to it. This includes persons who have a key to the property, who is listed on the lease, or is the owner or landlord of the property.

How Does "Expectation of Privacy" Factor into Consensual Searches?

You should understand that courts review all police and home searches on a case-by-case basis. This is especially true when it comes to a person’s "expectation of privacy." Usually, persons with control over the property can clearly consent to a search of common areas shared by the tenants, such as living rooms, hallways, yards, etc.

However, the tenant may have an expectation of privacy in their own living quarters. For instance, if they keep their own room locked with a separate key that the other tenants or don’t control, they may be protected from a search. A general rule is that if the area is off-limits to a tenant, the courts often find that the area is off-limits in terms of warrantless searches as well. On that note, police can always search such areas if they have secured a valid warrant to do so.

What Happens to Evidence That Is Seized During an Unlawful Search?

Evidence that is seized during an unreasonable police search is excluded from the upcoming trial and cannot be used as evidence. This is known as the "exclusionary rule". For instance, if police showed up at a person’s house for a search, and a roommate wrongfully gave consent to search locked areas, any evidence obtained during that unlawful search will likely be excluded from the evidence log in court. Again, this is all done individually by case and will depend on the facts of each case.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Police Search Laws?

Police search laws are highly complex and have been subject to changes over time. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you have any issues, legal questions, or disputes involving a police search. Your attorney can advise you of your legal rights, and can inform you of your options. Also, you lawyer can represent you and provide you with criminal defense counseling if you are going to be involved in a trial.

Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 01-02-2014 12:32 PM PST

Find the Right Lawyer Now

Link to this page

Law Library Disclaimer

LegalMatch Service Mark