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Major Lesson Plan: Consent Searches/Exigent Entry: Randolph v. Georgia

Jack Ryan

Major Lesson Plan Consent Searches/Exigent Entry:

Target Audience: Law Enforcement personnel who may be faced with the task of consent searches at homes.

Objective: Provide officers with essential knowledge of the law relating to consent searches.

Format: Roll-call/ supervisory training.

Time: Five to ten minutes, but this may be expanded where agency resources allow.

Materials: Law Enforcement Risk Management Legal Update and any agency policy relating to consent searches.

Note: Officers should be encouraged to read the article in this update on “consent searches” as well as “exigent entry” either before or after this roll-call training.

Hypothetical # 1:

Officers receive a call of a domestic disturbance in progress. When officers arrive at the scene they meet with a female who identifies herself as Mrs. Riggs. Mrs. Riggs states that she and her husband are in the process of separating but still living in the same house, and that he does not want her to remove the plasma television from the home. She further states that her husband, an avid marijuana smoker, has some marijuana in the bedroom that they share. The officers ask Mrs. Riggs if they can enter the home. Mrs. Riggs replies, “Come right in.” The officers go in and seize the marijuana from the bedroom that Mr. and Mrs. Riggs share.

Question #1:

Did the officers receive a valid consent and will the marijuana be admitted as evidence?

Answer #1:

Yes, based on the hypothetical, Mrs. Riggs shared common authority over the bedroom and consented to the search.

Hypothetical #2:

Using the same facts as #1 above, officers ask Mrs. Riggs for consent to enter and she says no.

Question #2

What options do the officers have no that she has provided the information concerning the marijuana but has refused consent?

Answer #2:

As long as the officers believe that the information provided by Mrs. Riggs is reliable (most cases would indicate that it is) the officers could take steps to freeze the home while they seek a search warrant using the information provided by Mrs. Riggs as supporting probable cause or, if the situation is such that the marijuana may be destroyed while the warrant is sought, the officers may enter under exigent circumstances.

Hypothetical #3:

Using the same initial facts from #1 above, officers ask Mrs. Riggs to consent to an entry. Mrs. Riggs consents, but Mr. Riggs, who is also present, makes it clear to officers that he does not want them in his house.

Question #3

May the officers enter even though Mr. Riggs has objected?

Answer #3

No, the officers may not enter under the consent doctrine but they do not need to walk away either. The officers could take steps to freeze the home while they seek a search warrant using the information provided by Mrs. Riggs as supporting probable cause and include Mr. Riggs refusal in the affidavit or, if the situation is such that the marijuana may be destroyed while the warrant is sought, the officers may enter under exigent circumstances.

Hypothetical # 4

When the officers arrive at the initial call of the domestic disturbance they are met at the door by Mr. Riggs. He reports that all is well at the home and has no idea who would have called the police. The officers ask to speak with Mrs. Riggs, but her husband indicates that she is unavailable. The officers are aware that the complainant, who is identified, heard screams at the house. The officers ask if they may enter and Mr. Riggs refuses to grant consent.

Question #4

May the officers enter the home, notwithstanding Mr. Riggs’ refusal of consent?

Answer #4

The officers may enter the home under exigent circumstances as long as they can articulate their concern for the safety/well-being of Mrs. Riggs.


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