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Questioning "Authority": Fourth Amendment Consent Searches


1 The scope of this language is vast, but one protection firmly rooted within its terms is the protection afforded to the privacy of a person's home from unreasonable government intrusion.2 Thus, the Fourth Amendment consistently has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to prohibit law enforcement from entering a residence without a valid warrant, subject to a few jealously guarded exceptions.3 One such exception to this general prohibition applies to entry made into a residence by police officers who obtain voluntary consent. THE REQUIREMENT OF VOLUNTARINESS The Fourth Amendment requires police officers to prove that consent to enter a residence was given voluntarily and was not the product of duress or coercion.7 In Schnekloth v. Bustamonte* the Supreme Court held that the question whether consent was in fact 'voluntary' a question of fact to be determined from the totality of the circumstances.

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