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Acquiescence or Consent? Court Upholds Warrantless Search

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

How many times must a person refuse to let the cops search her home?

Des Moines police officers asked to enter Krista Stoekel's home to search for Travis Collins. Stoekel denied knowing Collins, and refused to admit the officers. Twice.

The officers asked to step in and question Stoekel about Collins. She opened the door and said, "You can go no further than the living room." After the cops explained they had an arrest warrant for Collins for a parole violation, and didn't want Stoekel to be in trouble, she became upset, admitted knowing Collins, and conceded that he could have been in her house.

When the cops asked again to confirm whether Collins was in the house, Stoekel said, "Fine."

According to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, three rejections followed by a "fine" qualifies as consent to a search.

Before entering a third party's home to search for the subject of an arrest warrant, police must obtain a search warrant, absent exigent circumstances or the third party's consent. There is, however, an exception: Police can enter a third party's home with an arrest warrant if the officers executing the arrest warrant have a reasonable belief that the suspect resides at the place to be entered and have reason to believe that the suspect is present at the time the warrant is executed.

Here, the Eighth Circuit found that Stoekel was clearly induced to cooperate, but there was no unreasonable coercion. It was not a case of mere acquiescence, therefore, the district court didn't err in finding that the cops' could reasonably conclude that Stoekel voluntarily consented to the search.

Even without Stoekel's voluntary consent, the appellate court noted that it would uphold the search because once Stoekel admitted Collins might be in the house, the officers had a reasonable belief that Collins resided there and was present at the time the warrant was executed.

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