A Trick Question Police Use To Get Consent To Search

Posted by Corey L. Scott | Mar 02, 2023 | 0 Comments

Law enforcement has the duty to ensure that everyone is abiding by the laws of the land and to apprehend those who don't.They have some level of authority to conduct searches or do what is necessary to identify any violations of the law.

However, there are also limitations to their authority. The duty to enforce laws should be well-balanced with the respect for individuals' constitutional rights. They cannot infringe on them and abuse their authority.

One of the basic rights enjoyed by U.S. citizens is the right to not provide consent to a search. Unfortunately, police officers can try to get around this and use tactics to trick people into giving their consent.

Use of Vague Language to Trick You Into Giving Consent

The police are fond of using vague and ambiguous language to trick people into giving consent to a search. While it happens in various settings, it is most commonly seen among vehicle drivers. What usually happens is the police officer stops a car for a traffic violation and does the usual things, like asking for a license, registration, etc.

While they have the vehicle stopped and the driver cooperating, they will usually go further and ask if there is anything illegal in the car. Of course, the driver will say no and at which point, the officer will ask something along the lines of “Well, you don't mind giving us consent to search then do you? You don't mind if we take a look in your car and search the vehicle, do you?”

There's a reason they ask these two questions simultaneously and in that particular order. They want the driver to answer either “yes” or “no”, which is very vague. If they say “yes”, are they giving consent to search the vehicle? Or do they mind that the officer takes a look in the car and searches the vehicle?

This set of ambiguous questions leads to ambiguous answers. But regardless, the police officer will interpret a “yes” to mean the driver has given consent. That is what they will write in their report, even if there was an apparent confusion in the language.

How to Get Around the Trick Question

In asking these trick questions, the police officers are expecting a “yes” or “no” answer. Drivers can easily get around it and exercise their right to not give consent by answering in a more detailed manner.

They should be very specific and say something to the effect of “officer, I know that you're just doing your job, but I do not consent to any type of search." This makes it very clear that no consent is given and can help the driver avoid getting caught up in the wordplay.

About the Author

Corey L. Scott

Corey L. Scott, was born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana. Upon graduation from East Chicago Central High School, Corey attended Indiana State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology.  Upon graduation, Corey accepted a position with the Marion County Superior Court, Juvenile Division where he served with distinction for the next nine years, eventually being promoted to Director of the Youth Counseling Department. Pursuing his dream of becoming an attorney, Corey attended the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.  While in law school, Corey was an Indiana Council on Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) fellow and participated in Moot Court competitions.  He also worked in the Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division as a bailiff and research assistant to the Honorable Tanya Walton Pratt, who serves as a Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Corey also served as an internship law clerk to the Honorable Judge, Margret G. Robb, at the Indiana Court of Appeals. Finally, upon graduation from law school, Corey had the distinct honor and privilege to serve as a law clerk to the Honorable Justice, Robert D. Rucker, who sits on the Indiana Supreme Court. Corey then became an associate with Mike Norris Law Office, where he specialized in bankruptcy law with a main concentration on working to assist families obtain a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Still a young attorney, Corey then served as a public defender at the Marion County Public Defender Agency.  In this position, Corey gained invaluable trial experience by defending clients in a wide range of matters from misdemeanors to serious felonies on a daily basis.  It was also during this time that Corey discovered his passion for representing and serving "everyday people." An entrepreneur at heart, Corey established the Law Office of Corey L. Scott, P.C.  Since then, he and his staff have served the greater Indianapolis community and surrounding counties in several legal disciplines including: Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense and Family Law.  In keeping with his vision, Corey L. Scott, P.C., is a client focused, results oriented general law practice that endeavors to provide legal solutions for "everyday people" charged with a crime, dealing with financial crisis or going through a difficult divorce. Corey has also been active serving the greater Indianapolis community by participating in pro bono programs such as "Ask a Lawyer," the "Modest Means" panel program which allows individuals to afford legal counsel at a fraction of normal rates, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and the Heartland Pro Bono Council program. Corey is a proud member of the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indiana Bar Association, American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.


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