Can a juvenile consent to a search of the family home when parents aren’t present?

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Can a juvenile consent to a search of the family home when parents aren’t present?

Is this issue addressed in statutory or case law? Please cite.

Asked on June 2, 2009 under Criminal Law, Colorado

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

The majority of jurisdictions conclude that a minor has sufficient joint control in their parents' house to consent to a search under the following standard:

1.  Did the minor live in the home or share the premises with the absent parent?

2.  Did the minor have the right of access to the premises searched and the right to invite others to the premises?

3.  Did the totality of the circumstances indicate that the police were reasonable in their determination that the minor had sufficient control over the premises? 

4.  Did the facts attendant to the encounter -- including the minor's age, maturity, and intelligence -- indicate that the minor could exercise sufficient discretion to freely, knowingly, and voluntarily consent to the search and not merely acquiesce to a request of a police officer?

Failure to satisfy all four prongs of this test will preclude a finding that the minor gave valid third-party consent.

Based on my brief search, I did not located specific Colorado statutory or case law.  You may want to consult with an attorney for a more definitive answer.


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