Under the 4th Amendment, people are given protection by the Constitution to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in their homes. This means that for police to search a home, they either need to have acquired a search warrant, identified an exception to the rule, or gotten consent from a resident. Although police officers are supposed to obtain a search warrant, many police officers will attempt to avoid this step by simply asking for consent to search the premises. Because many people believe that refusing to allow a police officer to search can be seen as a sign of guilt, many people freely give their consent, even in situations where incriminating evidence will be found. This situation can become even more complicated when a person lives in a house or apartment with one or multiple roommates.
In order for a police officer to get consent to search a residence, the police officer must receive permission from a person who the police officer reasonably believes has the authority to give consent. This consent has to be given voluntarily to the police officer, who is not obligated to inform the person that they are allowed to refuse. Once consent has been given, the police officer is free to search the home without any showing of probable cause or a warrant.
Often times, roommates may have differing opinions on whether to allow the police into the residence. Regardless, each roommate has the authority to give consent to a police officer. However, in Georgia v. Randolph, the Supreme Court stated that if a roommate, who is physically present, objects to the search, the police must obtain a search warrant. It is important to note, the objecting person must be at the residence to object in order for this protection to be available. However, if only one roommate is present and consents, the police are only allowed to search the common areas (living room, kitchen, etc.) of the residence and the personal space (bedroom) of the person who gave consent, not the personal space of any other roommates who may not be home at the time.
If you have been charged with a crime after the police have been given consent to search your residence, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.