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Revoking Consent to Search

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 74 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2005 Pages: 25-32
Jayme W. Holcomb J.D.
Date Published
February 2005
8 pages
This article explores an individual’s right to revoke their consent to search.
The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, individuals may give their consent to law enforcement officers to conduct a search while still retaining the right to revoke that consent. This article explores when consent can be withdrawn and whether law enforcement officers can consider such revocation as reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a search without consent after it has been withdrawn. The prevailing view of consent revocation is that individuals may revoke their consent to searches any time prior to the discovery of the items being sought and police officers must halt their search. Exceptions to this prevailing view are enumerated and examples are provided. The article next examines actions or statements that are sufficient to constitute a revocation of consent, along with actions or statements that are insufficient to constitute a revocation. Previous court cases have found that officers may develop reasonable suspicion or probable cause for a search without consent either prior to, or during, the revocation of consent to search. Case examples illuminate the circumstances under which probable cause to search are established following revocation of consent. In order to establish probable cause, it is important that officers vigilantly observe and articulate what was seen or heard prior to consent being revoked. Endnotes