In Florida, there are few exceptions to the requirement that police officers must obtain a search warrant signed by a judge before they enter someone’s residence to search for evidence. One such exception is that the police can normally approach a residence, knock on the door and ask the occupant if they can search the residence. Of course, the occupant can always refuse to allow the police to come in and search the residence, and in that case, the police would likely need to obtain a search warrant to initiate the search.
In a recent drug trafficking case in Jacksonville, Florida, the police obtained information that a cell phone with incriminating evidence on it was located in an apartment. They did not want to reveal how they tracked the cell phone to the apartment so they decided not to try and get a search warrant. Instead, they went to the apartment, knocked on the door and asked the resident if they could search the apartment. The resident refused, as he had a right to do. However, as is often the case, the police did not take no for an answer and entered the apartment anyway. Once inside the apartment, they started to search and found the cell phone. At some point, the police apparently obtained consent to search after they had entered the apartment. The defendant was ultimately arrested for drug trafficking based on the evidence obtained in the apartment.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the apartment based on the fact that the consent was not legally obtained. Normally, when the police ask for consent to search and get it, the police can conduct a reasonable search under the circumstances. However, the consent has to be given free from any improper police conduct. In this case, the police violated the law by entering the apartment without a search warrant and after consent to search was denied. As a result, the consent that was obtained after the illegal entry was tainted and invalid. The evidence recovered in the apartment as a result of the illegal search was thrown out.