When an Officer Threatens to Seek a Search Warrant if a Suspect Doesn’t Consent to a Search, Is the Suspect’s Subsequent Consent Rendered Involuntary?

Suppose an officer is investigating a report of drug sales at a home. The officer sends an informant in to make a controlled buy from the suspected dealer. The informant comes out of the house with drugs and a report that the dealer has a large additional quantity of illicit substances remaining in the house. The officer decides that it would be a good time to bust the dealer, so the officer approaches the home, knocks on the door, and the dealer answers. The officer explains the situation and says, “I’m asking for consent to search your house. If you don’t consent, I’ll go apply for a search warrant because I think I have probable cause. So, can I search?” The dealer says yes, but later argues that his consent was not voluntary and that he merely acquiesced given the threat of the warrant. What’s the law?

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United States Supreme Court Clarifies When Consent to Search by One Residential Occupant Is Valid When a Co-Occupant Has Previously Objected

Last week the United States Supreme Court in Fernandez v. California (February 25, 2014) clarified an issue left open in its ruling in Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006): the validity of a consent search by a residential occupant after a co-occupant has previously objected to a search but is no longer physically present … Read more