When is consent to search valid? Generally, if someone gives the police consent to search a house, car, luggage, etc., the police can conduct the search and the court will uphold the search and the items found during the search. However, in order to consent to a search, the person must have either actual or apparent authority over the item or place to be searched. A roommate has actual authority to consent to search an apartment. Even if the person does not live in the apartment, if that person led the police to believe that they lived there, they have apparent authority. This means that the police can believe, in good faith, that the person lives there and has the authority to consent to a search. However, the roommate cannot consent to a search of someone else’s luggage.
Basically, consent to search follows a common sense approach. Someone can only grant the authority that they have. If the person does not have the authority or permission to open their roommate’s purse, they cannot validly consent to the police opening the purse, either.
If the consent appears to be invalid, the remedy is to file a motion to suppress. A successful motion to suppress prevents the prosecutor from using any evidence that was obtained from the search.