Can I consent to a police search of my living room but not my bedroom?
Where only limited consent is given, that limitation is supposed to be honored. But if the police, in the course of making a limited search, happen to see evidence of illegal activity elsewhere, they may properly search and seize it. Also, once in a home, the police are very skilled at obtaining consent from the homeowner to expand the scope of the search.
Example: Officer Zack asks permission to search Mike’s residence for marijuana plants. Mike agrees. Officer Zack proceeds with the search, goes into Mike’s desk, and reviews some of the documents he finds there. The search is invalid under the Fourth Amendment. Mike agreed only to the limited search for marijuana plants, and there were obviously no such plants in the documents that Officer Zack reviewed.
Example: Officer Zack asks, and Mike agrees, to allow a search of Mike’s home for narcotics. In the course of the search, the officer finds a closet containing an illegal weapon, which the officer seizes. The search is valid. The weapon was readily seen in a place where narcotics might be found.
by: Janet Portman, Attorney