In Florida, many drug cases arise after a suspect has given the police consent to search. We have a hard time understanding why people give police consent to search when they know they are in possession of drugs or other incriminating evidence, but they do quite often. When a suspect gives the police valid consent to search his/her person, vehicle, residence or anything else, it eliminates the need for probable cause and a search warrant. It is often a shortcut between investigation and arrest.
However, when a suspect gives the police consent to search, it can have its limits. The consent to search should be limited to the area that is agreed to by the suspect. For example, if a person is standing in his front yard, the police ask to search his person and the suspect agrees, the police cannot also go into his house without additional consent covering his house.
In a recent methamphetamine case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police received a tip that the defendant was manufacturing methamphetamine at his house. The police went to his house and saw that the defendant was burning something in a pit in his backyard. The defendant said he was just burning trash. The police asked for consent to look around the pit to confirm his story. After looking around the pit, the police saw a pill bottle on the patio and opened it. Inside, they found powder methamphetamine and arrested the defendant for possession of methamphetamine.
The criminal defense attorney filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine arguing that the police did not have authority to search the closed pill bottle. The consent only applied to the area near the pit. The judge agreed that the consent was limited to the pit area and did not include closed containers away from the pit. As a result, the evidence of the methamphetamine was suppressed, and the possession of methamphetamine charge was thrown out.