I had the question asked: can a guest who is staying in your house allow the police to search? What about if they were to call the police and invite them to search? Would that evidence still be admissible against the homeowner?
Apparent authority is the key
This is more than just a yes or no answer. The police must have voluntary consent from a person who is authorized to give consent over the area or property to be searched.
In your scenario, the police must act reasonably and the consent must be from someone with “apparent authority” to give the consent. That means that in the circumstances, it must be fairly clear and reasonable for the person to assume the person giving consent has the authority to do so.
For example, if a person is stopped driving a car, the car is registered to them and they give consent, it’s pretty clear her the driver had the authority over the car to give consent.
Let’s take a scenario where the person was left in charge of the home while the owner was away. If the police show up, that person answers the door and allows a search, it could be seen as looking like that person had authority over the house. Unless the homeowner actually gave a large degree of control and access over the house, the guest didn’t really have the authority to allow the search, but that isn’t the question.
Searches must be reasonable.
In a search analysis, the Fourth Amendment requires that the search is reasonable. That means that the police acted reasonably under the circumstances. In our scenario, if the police found something and charges were filed, there surely would be a motion to suppress filed. The DA would argue just the police were acting reasonably and acted on he apparent authority. The specific facts would then come into play – what was said, what did the police know at the time of the search, what actual authority did the guest have over the house, etc.
Search issues are always extremely fact-dependent. Change the facts slightly and it may change the analysis. If this is more than a hypothetical, time for a lawyer that is well-versed in search and seizure law. If this is your concern in the future, don’t entrust your house to someone you don’t trust 1,000,000%.
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