The Law Offices of Katherine Schwinghammer

I Don’t Consent to Searches

Posted by: Katherine Schwinghammer //

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police have a warrant to search, they can search where and for what the warrant authorizes them to search. There are specific circumstances that give the police exceptions to the warrant requirement. But a whole lot of searches happen even when there is no warrant and none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement apply.

Have you ever watched an episode of “COPS” where an officer asks (or states, authoritatively) “You don’t mind if I take a look in your car, do you”, and the driver answers “Sure, go ahead” — only for the driver to be promptly arrested because of something the officer discovered during that search? It happens. I don’t watch “COPS” regularly, but in the few episodes I’ve stumbled across while changing channels, I’ve seen that scenario played out more than once. And I’ve seen it in cases I’ve handled in court, as well.

If a uniformed, armed, assertive law enforcement officer, standing above you, shining a flashlight into your face, says with an authoritative tone of voice, “You don’t mind if I take a look in your car” you may not even realize that they have a choice. But you do have a choice. The Bill of Rights protects you against unreasonable unwarranted searches, but that right is lost if you don’t assert it. In my opinion, it’s a very valuable right — it is one of the things that makes our country free. The founders of the United States thought it was important enough to include it in the Bill of Rights, so I imagine they would agree.

You *don’t* have to consent to searches. I don’t consent to searches. I’ve never been asked, but if the day comes when I am asked, I’m prepared to state, politely and confidently, “No, I don’t consent to searches.” has posted an entertaining video on YouTube that shows some Do’s and Don’t’s for anyone in that situation. Take two minutes to watch the video — or just say it once or twice now so you’ll be prepared, if you even find yourself wanting to assert one of your constitutional rights: “I don’t consent to searches.”

Katherine Schwinghammer  Attorney at Law