In general, how much can a person do to stop a warrantless search beyond verbally refusing consent? Is there anything further that can be done to prevent the search in the first place or make legal action after the fact more likely to prevail?

Most of the results I get to searches relate to what officers can legally do, but I'm more interested in the case where the search isn't legal (regardless of if the officer knows that).

I kinda suspect the answer (excluding thing like taking recordings) is "nothing at that time" but that any officers involved who ignore that refusal will get in trouble. Would it be legal (ignoring the question of advisability) to passively obstruct such an illegal search, say by locking a door or standing in a doorway such that the police would have to physically touch/move you to continue?

  • 2
    Not all searches require a warrant, so how do you know, at the time, the search is unlawful? Especially when "regardless .. if the officer knows that"
    – user35069
    Mar 27, 2023 at 19:51
  • For the sake of the question, let's assume it does need one. That said, I kinda suspect the answer won't depend on that, in that at a guss what you can legally do and should do is the same in ether case?
    – BCS
    Mar 28, 2023 at 1:06
  • 1
    @Greendrake: I (not a lawyer) don't know of any cases where intentionally annoying the police has made anything better. And it won't prevent the search (which is likely impossible) so; would that improve the chances of prevailing in court after the fact? At a guess, not any more than saying that whenever (and only when) responding to the officer saying something to you.
    – BCS
    Mar 28, 2023 at 3:10
  • 8
    Which jurisdiction? In many places you either do nothing, or you get shot on the spot and die. Mar 28, 2023 at 7:49
  • 1
    @user253751 Especially if your skin is the "wrong" color.
    – Barmar
    Mar 28, 2023 at 14:25

1 Answer 1

  1. Don't consent.

  2. Say so (ideally in a well documented way, like on video).

  3. Challenge the fruits of any unlawful search after the fact in a suppression hearing, or in a civil rights lawsuit.

There is a decent chance that a court will find that the warrantless search is lawful – even if it isn't – but there isn't much that you can do about it that would be wise or legal.

Also, recognize that in many circumstances, warrantless searches are legal.

  • 2
    Not my personal experience, but yes from what I have observed over the years in news reports, appellate case law, etc.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 28, 2023 at 1:02
  • 7
    @ohwilleke those sources are likely pro e to selection bias. The case that go bad tend to to be more widely know.
    – BCS
    Mar 28, 2023 at 1:08
  • 5
    @BCS " I'm more wondering if there's anything that can be done at the point of refusing concent that would beneficial when it comes time for item 3? E.g. If they have to walk around you, push you out of the way or break a lock to start a search, could that make it harder for someone to argue "I thought we had concent" than if you just verbally say no? " Your logic is almost backward. If you do those things you are likely to be successfully charged with a crime and may create probable cause even if it wasn't present at first.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 28, 2023 at 1:21
  • 7
    @BCS IANAL, but I think the general idea is that you're normally required to obey orders of the police, even if you think they're unlawful. You can't interfere with the police, all you can do is challenge them afterward.
    – Barmar
    Mar 28, 2023 at 14:29
  • 3
    @BCS Interfering with an officer, failure to obey an order of a law enforcement officer, interference with a search, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct . . . the exact labels aren't terribly consistent from one jurisdiction to another. Also, the officer could try to turn a "push" or need to push you into a justification for the use of force against you (with will almost certainly be more than is actually reasonable under the circumstance and may end up causing property damage that could have been avoided as well).
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 28, 2023 at 16:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .