24. While I'm Out of the House, My Parent, Roommate or Spouse Who Shares the Premises with Me Agrees to a Search of the House That Turns Up Evidence That Incriminates Me. Does the Consent Make the Search Legal?

  Perhaps. An adult in rightful possession of a house or apartment usually has legal authority to consent to a search of the entire premises. But if there are two or more separate tenants in one dwelling, courts often rule that one tenant has no power to consent to a search of the areas exclusively controlled by the other tenants (for instance, their separate bedrooms).

  A tricky twist is that the consent will be considered valid if the police reasonably believe that the consenting person has the authority to consent even if it turns out they don't. (See the example below.)

  Case Example: Bob's ex-wife Jan knows where Bob hides his cocaine. She calls the police and tells them about the cocaine. She directs them to Bob's house. When they get there, she opens the door with a key (she never returned it to Bob). She puts her purse on the entry hall table, opens the hall closet and puts on a sweater that appears to be hers. She then leads the police to the place where Bob stores his cocaine. As far as the police know, Jan lives in the apartment and has full authority to consent to the search.

  Question: Even though Jan and the police enter the apartment without Bob's permission, did the search violate Bob's Fourth Amendment rights?

  Answer: No. Although the police mistakenly thought that Jan had the authority to consent to the search, the mistake would be considered a reasonable one since every fact surrounding the search (including Jan's having a key and knowing her way around the apartment) pointed to that authority.

  25. While I'm Out, the Landlord of the Apartment Building Where I Live Gives a Police Officer Permission to Search My Apartment. Does the Landlord's Consent Make the Search Legal?

  No. The landlord is not considered to be in possession of an apartment leased to a tenant, and therefore lacks authority to consent to a search of leased premises. The same is true for hotel operators.

  26. Can the Police Search My Hotel Room Without a Warrant?

  The general rule is no. Again, however, an exception (such as consent or an emergency) may exist which would justify a warrantless hotel room search.