If the government wishes to enter your house without a warrant and they ask your permission to do so, if you impose restrictions on what they can do or a part of the house they can or cannot enter, are they forced to comply with your restrictions or can they do whatever they like?

I would also be interested if your consent with restrictions was disregarded if that would be grounds to have the search deemed illegal.

  • 7
    Why would you let officers without a warrant search your house? The premise is flawed, if there is something you don't want searched, don't let them in.
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jun 29, 2021 at 21:22
  • Wouldn’t this merely impose a civil contractual duty even if they verifiably agree to it? That should only entitle you to some damages but would probably not support a motion exclude evidence, no?
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 0:33

1 Answer 1


They must comply with your restrictions, via the principle that consent can be withdrawn. One relevant Supreme Court case is Walter v. US 447 US 649, which declares that

When an official search is properly authorized—whether by consent or by the issuance of a valid warrant—the scope of the search is limited by the terms of its authorization

Likewise in Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248,

A suspect may, of course, delimit as he chooses the scope of the search to which he consents.

In US v. Williams, No. 16-3547, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 21304 (3d Cir.), the court elaborated that

a consensual search satisfies the mandates of the Constitution only if conducted within the boundaries of the consent given. This recognition establishes that it is the subject of a consensual search who decides the terms of the search.

and furthermore,

That a party may terminate a search by withdrawing his consent is a corollary of the recognition that the subject of a consensual search determines the parameters of that search.

Bear in mind that you have to be crystal clear on any limits on the scope of a search.

If this is more of a business call (the electrical inspector) and not a search, they don't have any special powers to enter your house. If the inspector enters your basement study without permission, that is trespassing, but you can't sue him because of that unless there was actual damage done. You can complain to his superior.

  • 7
    I have a huge feeling that the moment you voluntarily let the police in, is the moment they can see (or say they see) something suspicious and they can then toss any requests you made of them out the window and search as they like. Also I'd be sure to get any such agreement in writing in the event they ignore the searchee's request. </cynicism>
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 14:57
  • 4
    @BruceWayne The plain view doctrine still applies. If officers outside the house saw evidence through the window, even though it is plainly visible, they would still have to get a warrant to enter the house. That reasoning should also apply if you let them in the house but only authorize them to enter certain areas. If they see something in plain view in an unauthorized area, they should have to return for a warrant. That's the theory, anyway. The officers would most likely claim exigent circumstances, enter the unauthorized area to seize the evidence, and it would probably stand.
    – Mohair
    Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 16:01
  • Wow, you guys rock!
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 3:38

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