Every person has a strong Constitutional right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. This privacy right is strongest in one’s residence. The police can only search a person’s residence in limited situations, the most common of which are with a valid search warrant and when the person who lives at the residence gives the police consent to search the residence.
When a police officer knocks on a person’s door and asks for consent to search, the resident has every right to refuse the search. As criminal defense lawyers in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we continue to be amazed at how often people let police officers go through their homes based on a simple request to search, particularly when the resident has drugs in the house. In any case, people should understand the strong Constitutional privacy right they have in their homes which allows them to refuse a police request to search the home.
On the consent issue, it is not just the owner of the residence who is authorized to give the police consent to search the home. Any person, such as another resident, a roommate or a tenant, who has common authority over the residence is authorized to allow the police to enter and search the resident. Common authority usually involves a person who has joint access to the premises. If the owner of a home has a friend staying at the home for some period of time and that friend has free access to the home, that temporary resident may have authority to allow the police to come in and search the premises. If it reasonably appears to the police officer from the circumstances that the person has joint access to the premises, that person can legally consent to a search of the premises by police even if the homeowner is no around at the time.