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Authority to Consent to Home Search

A person answering the door must have actual or apparent authority to consent to the entry of a home for the police to conduct a valid search.

In Bradley v. State, the police, acting on an anonymous tip, were watching people come and go from a suspected drug house. The officers saw a man, Beatty, approach the door and knock and allowed into the house by someone. When the officers approached the house to conduct a warrantless knock and talk, Beatty opened the door. The police did not know who lived in the house or whether Beatty had any connection to it, but asked him to consent to their entry, which he did. Once inside the house, the police smelled burnt marijuana and found drugs as a result of a protective sweep. Bradley arrived home during the police search and was arrested and charged with drug offenses.

The Indiana Court of Appeals held that Beatty having been to the home on one prior occasion and answering the door to the police was insufficient to meet the State’s burden to show Beatty had joint access and control over the home. Mere affiliation with the home, based on having been there earlier, is not enough to establish apparent authority to consent. All evidence seized in the search was suppressed.

With over 33 years of handling thousands of criminal cases, Steven Knecht is familiar with the possible defenses to drug possession and other criminal charges. If you find yourself having been arrested, you should immediately hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer that you can trust such as Steven Knecht to help you fight the State because you have a lot at stake on the outcome.

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