If you are ever asked by law enforcement officials for permission to search anything, our best advice is to say “no”, and ask for your attorney. Each of us has the Constitutional right to deny a search that is not called for by a warrant. We also have the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer. If you say “no”, consent can be sorted out later. But if you say “yes”, you waive your Constitutional right. What’s done cannot be undone.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution gives us the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. A search that occurs without a warrant is presumed to be unreasonable. The burden is then on the State to prove that the search was lawful. If, however, you consent to such a search, you give up your Fourth Amendment protection.
If you are ever asked to turn over your computer to authorities without being presented a warrant, say “no”. Some people think that they can limit the terms of their consent when a computer is involved. This simply does not happen. A computer can be removed and be gone for months and months and months. The next thing you know, you are indicted. Because you consented to have your computer removed and looked at, you have waived your right to challenge the search of the computer.
Some people do not understand that police officers can be untruthful when they are trying to get your consent without a warrant. Often police officers will indicate to you that, by giving consent, you will put yourself in a better position. However, law enforcement officials cannot promise you anything. The only person that can make an enforceable promise is a prosecutor.
It has been our experience that it is never in your best interest to consent to a search. If you consent, it’s too late. Whatever is obtained during such a search can and will most likely be used against you. Our standard advice is to always say “no”!