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LEGAL

RESEARCH

Schneckloth v. Bustamonte

Facts

An officer stopped a car when he observed that its license plate light and a headlight were inoperable. Six men, including the defendant, were in the car. After the driver failed to produce a driver’s license, the officer asked if any of the other five men had any identification. One of men produced a license and explained that he was the brother of the car’s owner, from whom the car had been borrowed. After the six men stepped out of the car at the officer’s request, and after two more officers arrived, the officer who had stopped the car asked the owner’s brother if he could search the car. He replied “Sure, go ahead.” The owner’s brother helped in the search by opening the trunk and the glove compartment. The officers found stolen checks under a seat.

Issue

Whether the owner’s brother could grant consent to the search of the car?

Held

Yes. The validity of consent to search is determined by the totality of the circumstances.

Discussion

For consent to be valid, it must be proven from the totality of the circumstances that the consent was freely and voluntarily given. Consent cannot result from duress or coercion, either expressed or implied. The consenter’s ignorance of his right to refuse consent is only one factor to be considered in ascertaining the validity of the consent. The Fourth Amendment requires that consent to search not be coerced, by explicit or implicit means, by implied threat or covert force.

Citation

412 U.S. 218, 93 S. Ct. 2041 (1973)

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