Switch to ADA Accessible Website
Orlando Criminal Lawyer

Does “Non-Verbal” Consent To A Warrantless Police Search Count?

PhoneNightstand

The police cannot normally search your house without a warrant. But a warrant is unnecessary when the owner gives their “consent” to the search. While it is almost never a good idea to give such consent, people do it everyday, only to have it come and hurt them at their criminal trial.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you do refuse consent to a search, you should always make that clear to the officers. Judges can–and will–allow officers to interpret ambiguous or even “non-verbal” cues as proof of a defendant’s consent. Absent proof that such consent was coerced, that means any evidence obtained by the police is admissible at trial.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Conviction, Life Sentence in Sex Crimes Case

A recent published decision from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, United States v. Sanchez, provides a cautionary tale on this point. This case involved a Coral Gables man tried and convicted for sex crimes involving minors. Prosecutors alleged that the defendant, who was 29 at the time, was having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. The teenager also admitted to sending pornographic images and videos of herself to the defendant at his requests.

Cape Coral police went to the defendant’s home. They informed him they had a warrant to search his phone. The defendant denied having a relationship with the teenager beyond once dating her adult sister. During this exchange, the defendant’s parents arrived as this was their house. The officers said the defendant’s mother agreed to go inside the house and retrieve the phone identified in the warrant. An officer accompanied the mother.

Based on evidence obtained from that phone, and a second phone later recovered from another location, a federal grand jury indicted the defendant on multiple sex crimes charges. Before trial, the defendant argued that the police had illegally entered his parents’ home to look for his phone and it thus constituted an unlawful search. The trial judge rejected that argument. The jury convicted the defendant on seven charges and he received life in prison.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit saw nothing wrong with the police’s actions. The Court noted the defendant himself “verbally consented to the seizure” of the phone. Specifically, when confronted by the police initially, he said he was “fine” giving them the phone and that his parents knew where it was. The mother then has “at least nonverbal consent to follow her into the home to retrieve the phone.” The appellate court said there was no evidence the police used coercion to obtain consent from either party.

Indeed, the 11th Circuit said it had “repeatedly made it clear that consent can be non-verbal,” such as by simply “stepping aside and yielding the right-of-way to officers at the front door.” Especially given the defendant gave verbal consent to take his phone–for which the police already had a warrant–the officer’s brief entry into the residence to accompany the mother did not qualify as an unlawful search of the residence.

Contact Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez Today

Although it is generally a good idea to remain silent when questioned by the police, you should always be clear in asserting your rights, especially when it comes to asserting your rights against unreasonable or warrantless searches. And if you are ultimately arrested and need to speak with an experienced Orlando sex crimes defense lawyer, contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.

Source:

media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201914002.pdf

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
Miami

Miami Office

1200 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1410
Miami, FL 33131
Office: 305-999-5100
Fax: 305-999-5111
Orlando

Orlando Office

250 N Orange Ave, Suite 750
Orlando, FL 32801
Office: 407-705-2626
Fax: 407-705-2625

Email Us

Fields Marked * Are required

DISCLAIMER: Completing and submitting this form or otherwise merely contacting The Baez Law Firm or any individual at the firm will not establish an attorney/client relationship. Our firm cannot represent you until we determine that there would be no conflict of interest and that we are otherwise able to accept representation of your case. Please do not send any information or documents until a formal attorney/client relationship has been established through an interview with an attorney and you have been given authorization in the form of an engagement letter with The Baez Law Firm. Any information or documents sent via this form or otherwise prior to your receipt of an engagement letter will not be treated as confidences, secrets, or protected information of any nature. Submitting information regarding your potential case will not bar The Baez Law Firm from representing or continuing to represent a person or entity whose interest are adverse to your in condition with your case.

protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms
Please review the highlighted fields. They are required.
DISCLAIMER: This website contains information about The Baez Law Firm that includes testimonial statements from persons who are familiar with the firm's services. The testimonials shown are not necessarily representative of every person's experience with us. Testimonials from every client are not provided. As no two situations or persons are identical, the facts and circumstances of your situation may differ from those for which testimonials are shown. This website also includes information about some of the past results that we have obtained for our clients. Not all results are provided, and the results shown are not necessarily representative of all results obtained by us. No two situation are exactly alike; every person's situation is unique and the outcome for each person depends on the individual facts.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2015 - 2022 Baez Law Firm. All rights reserved.
This law firm website and legal marketing are managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab Contact Form Tab