Legal Briefing - Search without consent: Who's in trouble?

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Dear John, The other day, my wife and I got into a fight. It was pretty serious. She ended up calling the police. I was pretty scared, but I decided to wait for them to arrive by sitting on the porch.

When they got there, my wife came out and spoke to one of the officers and I spoke to another.

Anyway, she gave the police permission to search our house for some drugs I keep there. I told the cops that it was my house and they needed a warrant to search it, but they ignored me.

My wife showed them the stash I keep in my dresser drawer. I was arrested for domestic violence and possession of a controlled substance. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Searched Sam

•••

Police are generally not allowed to search someone's house without a warrant. One exception to this rule is when consent to search the house is given by someone with authority to give permission. If your wife lives in the house, then it is reasonable for the police to believe that she can consent to the search.

When two people live in a house, only one person needs to consent to the search. However, if the other person living in the house objects to the search, then anything found resulting from the search is generally only able to be used against the person who gave consent. This means that the drugs found might be used against your wife, but not you.

Certainly, there are more exceptions and rules than could be discussed here. However, I hope this gives you some hope that part of your problem with the law may be resolved.

Sincerely,

John

John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at askjohn@wwub.com.

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