“Consent” Searches

A “consent” search is nothing more than a search conducted after a person gives consent to search his or her property to police.

A search warrant requires the police to justify a search with probable cause and to describe the area and the materials sought with particularity. A consent search gives the police the ability to search the area for anything.

Where the police rely on consent to conduct a search, they must show that the person that gave consent did so knowingly and voluntarily. The fact that the person “went along with” or acquiesced to police demands after threats or a show of authority or force is not enough. Even though the police are not required to show that they warned a person of a right to refuse a search, the absence of such a warning and of the knowledge of the right to refuse a search may be a factor considered in determining if valid consent was given, particularly if the person was in police custody at the time.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that consent must be intentionally given so merely allowing the police to search without affirmatively doing so is not sufficient. Further, the consent must be the relinquishment of a known right.

I counsel all of my clients to refuse consent. If the police really think they have something, let them get a warrant.

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