Friday, May 27, 2005

Consent and the law

What rights do you have to say "no" to a search and when it is illegal for them to search. Over at Findlaw Sherry F. Colb has a great article with information on searches everyone should know. While it is not a primer on how to break the law, it is a good start on what your ability to say know means.
the main reason people consent to searches is that they do not know any better. To many, a police officer's request for consent may sound like an empty gesture that does not truly allow for a negative response. The person to be searched may well hear an implicit "we could do this the easy way (with consent) or the hard way (without consent) -- it is up to you" in the police question. Who would prefer "the hard way" in the face of those alternatives?

But don't police tell the suspect that he has the right not to be searched? After all, when a suspect is arrested, he is told -- before any interrogation may take place -- that he has the right to remain silent. Doesn't the "consent search" scenario require essentially the same thing?

The Supreme Court has said no. According to the Court, the fact that a person might not know that he has the right to refuse consent to a search is merely one factor in the determination of whether his consent is voluntary. The Court has reasoned that the police need not give warnings (to eliminate any doubt about the suspect's knowledge of her rights), because warnings might detract from the informality of an otherwise friendly interaction between civilians and the police.
She also did a very well written article on highway searches that should be a must read.

Remember that you have the greatest power against searches there is. The ability, the right, and the responsibility to say "No".

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To damn lazy

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