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Consent from Non-Owner to Search Vehicle

Let’s talk about non-owners of vehicles and getting their consent to search, and a few twists on that as well. My name is Anthony Bandiero, answering another roadside chat question.

Alright, this question comes from an officer in Minnesota. He says, “Could a driver of a motor vehicle who is not the owner, consent to a search of the vehicle?”

Let’s say that they’re alone. The answer is “Yes.” That’s called common authority. They’re in control of the vehicle. Let’s continue. If so, what if they say that the owner has property in the vehicle and the owner is not present? Could you search that property if consent is given? Generally, the answer is “yes.”

If even, first of all, the car is somebody else’s property, and you’re searching that, what makes that different from searching a backpack? Well, the idea here is that if the owner of the vehicle left their backpack in the vehicle, they are basically also giving control of that backpack to this driver. Therefore, it appears from the very few facts given, that the driver has common authority over the backpack.

Now, if the driver says something like, “Look, I know that the owner of the car told me, ‘Don’t let anybody in the backpack’ and told me not to get into the backpack,” then we’re probably off limits.

All right, say the owner is the passenger, and they give consent, but the driver denies consent. Would it be acceptable to search the car? Yes. Because what’s going on here is that the the owner of the vehicle has greater authority over the vehicle, they’re the owner and their consent or lack thereof, supersedes the driver’s consent.

So the vice versa is also important. Basically, the idea here is that the consent of the owner of the car, when it comes to the friend’s refusing consent, is always going to win. If they say search, you search. If they say don’t search, you don’t search. That’s the way it is. You may have some follow up questions for me. I hope this has helped you. Go to if you want to ask your question. Until next time, my friends stay safe.


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