April 17, 2024

politics of law

Politics and Law

Should You Consent to A Search When Asked By A Police Officer?

3 min read

The show COPS often shows police officers asking someone for consent to search their car, pockets, or home. The majority of the time the person grants consent to search which leads to the police finding drugs or other illegal contraband. What would happen if the person didn’t grant consent to search. The alternatives are not as bad as many believe.

Police Officers are not allowed to search areas that are within your expectation of privacy without a warrant, consent or some emergency circumstance. Your car, pockets and home are examples of places where you have a expectation of privacy. Police officers are trained that these areas are protected and can only be searched in special circumstances. They are taught that asking for consent is the easiest method to perform lawful search. Most people will grant consent even if it leads to the police discovering drugs or other illegal contraband.

Denying consent to search might be a much better solution if you have something to hide. If you choose to deny consent then the police only have a few options: 1) to just leave, 2) get a warrant, 3) find another reason to search you or 4) search you anyways. That is right, the police may just leave you alone and go onto the next case. If it is a really busy shift, the police may just leave and go find the next guy that will grant consent to search.

The police can get a warrant from a judge but that is a long process that takes substantial resource from other police work. Typically you have to be supervised while another officer goes back to the station and fills out an affidavit explaining why probable cause for a search warrant exist. Next the officer has to find a judge which can be very difficult late at night. The judge will read the affidavit, talk to the officer and decide whether or not to issue the warrant. Due to the effort involved in obtaining a warrant the officer might decide to let you go if you deny consent.

There are several other emergency reasons that law enforcement can use to search you, your car or your person. The most used circumstance is for the police to ask for a drug dog to come to the scene and “sniff” the premises. If the drug dog is not available because it is being used on the other side of town or the police don’t have a drug dog on duty, they may let you go.

The police can always search you without a valid reason. If this happens, your criminal defense attorney can now argue that the search was unlawful and possibly get your case thrown out. Because the police know they didn’t have a valid reason for the search they may decide to just take your drugs or contraband and let you go.

The worst consequence of not granting a police officer consent to search is that you end up getting arrested. This is the same position that you would be in if you did give consent. The benefit of not consenting is that there is a chance that you walk away a free person. There is no benefit in giving consent to a police officer if you have drugs or other illegal contraband on you. They will arrest you and you will end up with criminal charges.

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