Can Cops Lie To Get Consent To Search Houses?


When a Kentucky detective knocked on the door of a home where he’d heard drugs were being sold, he knew the occupants probably wouldn’t consent to a search if he said he was looking for narcotics, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. So he lied. He said a girl claimed to have been sexually assaulted there and that he wanted to examine the furniture and bedding to see if it matched her description. The cop was allowed into the home, where he found cocaine and marijuana and then arrested the owner.

Today the Kentucky Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case to determine whether a defendant’s consent to a search can ever be “voluntary” — as required for a search without a warrant — when it is the product of a police officer’s deceit and misrepresentation. Courts have long held that police may try to trick suspects during interrogations — by falsely telling them that their fingerprints were found at the scene, for example, or that a partner confessed and implicated them. Experts say the use of trickery to get permission for a search is more troubling because it easily can be coercive. “Anyone falsely accused of sexually assaulting a young girl would allow the search in order to clear himself,” said Wayne LaFave of the University of Illinois College of Law, author of a six-volume treatise on searches and seizures.


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