Case decides which individuals may offer consent to search

There has always been a conflict between law enforcement and those individuals suspected of committing a crime. While suspects have specific rights granted to them under the Constitution, several Supreme Court decisions have expanded the powers given to law enforcement officers which limit the protections that are in place.

Recently, the court issued a ruling which may allow police to conduct a warrantless search of a home. In this particular case, an individual was suspected of committing a violent crime. Officers investigating the crime learned that the man was in a nearby apartment. Screams were heard coming from the residence, and a woman answered the door when police arrived.

The officers asked the woman for consent to search, but, the man appeared and refused to allow the officers access. Police believed that the man had assaulted the woman, and made an arrest. They later returned to the residence and again asked the woman for consent to search the apartment, which was granted. The officers found evidence of the prior crimes when performing this search.

The man claimed that the evidence should not be admissible, as he had declined to give the officers permission to enter. Prior court decisions stated that if consent was refused, officers would have to get a warrant to be able to enter the residence. However, in this case, the court allowed the search because the individual who had refused consent had left the building. Once he was gone, officers could ask other individuals in the apartment to approve a search.

In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed concern about the impact that this ruling will have on future investigations. She wrote that the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment against illegal searches and seizures would be severely diminished by this case. Police could have easily obtained a warrant in this case after removing the man from the apartment.

With this change, officers may now have the ability to search a home without a warrant as long as one occupant gives permission, and those refusing leave the premises for any reason. If you learn that you are the target of an investigation by law enforcement, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Whether the charges that are result are state or federal offenses, you may be facing significant jail or prison time if you are convicted.

Your attorney will be able to offer you assistance at each step of the proceedings, from the initial contact with police all the way through trial, if necessary. You need someone who will look out for your interests, and aggressively protect your rights in conversations with police and prosecutors.

So many people make the mistake of talking with law enforcement about their case. Do not fall into this trap. You are only giving them more evidence that they will use to support their allegations.