In order for police in Florida to search a person’s home, they either need a search warrant, exigent circumstances or consent to search. Focusing on the latter issue, consent to search is normally given by the person who owns the home or is listed on the lease as the tenant. However, the police can also request consent to search a home from someone who does not own the residence and is not on the lease if it appears that the person has unrestricted access to the premises. This can include a roommate or someone temporarily staying at the residence. And, according to a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida in which a person was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a wife separated from her husband can also give police consent to search her husband’s home.
In this case, the defendant had been living with his wife, but due to some alleged abuse, she had moved out of the residence. A few days later, she called the police to report the domestic violence. After she reported the domestic violence, she also told police that the defendant was a convicted felon and had a firearm in his home. She then gave the police consent to search the home although she was not staying there at the time. The police went to the home, searched it and found a firearm inside. The defendant was arrested for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the firearm based on the argument that the police did not have authority to enter and search the home. The court denied the motion. Any person who has joint access or common authority over the residence can give police consent to search the residence. In this case, although the wife left the home, there was no evidence that her access to the home had been restricted in any way. Because she apparently still had joint access to the home, the judge ruled that she was permitted to give the police consent to search and look for the firearm.