Can a guest give police permission to search a home?

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Can a guest give police permission to search a home?

I was at a friend’s house and the cops were looking for someone. I do not live there. They asked to search and I said I guess. They found pipes used to smoke drugs. Is my giving consent as good as the owner giving permission or is the the owner the only one that can give permission?

Asked on December 31, 2011 under Criminal Law, Arkansas


Russ Pietryga / Pietryga Law Office

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

 Two possible issues with your question.  First, can you give consent to search the residence? Second, was your consent voluntary?

  Valid consent to enter may be given by the owner, or one entitled to possession of the premises, or one with common control or joint acess to the premises for most purposes.  


Utah Courts apply a two-pronged analysis in determining if defendant’s consent was freely and voluntarily given.  Specifically, defendant’s consent is valid only if: (1) The consent was given freely and voluntarily; and (2) The consent was not obtained by police exploitation of a prior illegality. 


1st Prong


In determining whether defendant’s consent was given freely and voluntarily the Utah Courts scrutinize both the details of the detention, and the characteristics of the defendant.

The totality of the circumstances must show consent was given without duress or coercion.In other words, a defendant’s will cannot be overborne, nor may their capacity for self-determination be critically impaired.  With respect to a defendant, evidence of minimal schooling, low intelligence, and the lack of any effective warnings about their rights should be considered.  Further, the Utah Courts have stated that factors which may show a lack of duress or coercion include: (1) The absence of a claim of authority to search defendant by the peace officer; (2) The absence of an exhibition of force by the peace officer; (3) The peace officer merely requests to search; (4) The cooperation of the defendant; and (5) The absence of deception, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or trickery by the peace officer. 


2nd Prong


            Utah Courts, conducting an exploitation analysis, evaluate the relationship between the peace officer’s misconduct and the subsequently discovered evidence to determine if excluding the evidence will effectively deter future illegalities. An exploitation analysis requires looking at the facts of each case.  When Utah Courts review the facts in an exploitation analysis, three factors are of particular relevance, they are: (1) The purpose and flagrancy of the peace officer’s illegal conduct; (2) The presence of intervening circumstances; and (3) The temporal proximity between the peace officer’s illegal detention and the defendant’s consent.



IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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