Current Issue

Volume 81, Number 6

December 2006

Whether Consent to Search Was Given Voluntarily: A Statistical Analysis of Factors That Predict the Suppression Rulings of the Federal District Courts

Brian A. Sutherland

Every year, police officers conduct thousands of searches without search warrants, relying instead on individuals’ consent as authority for these searches. If an individual later denies that his consent was given voluntarily, the trial court must review his claim and determine whether to suppress evidence obtained during the consent search. The question of voluntariness is difficult to assess, however, despite attempts by appellate courts to provide guidepost factors for trial court analysis. For this Note, the author gathered consent search cases and used statistical methods to analyze whether a correlation exists between a federal district court’s decision to suppress evidence and various factors relating to the voluntariness of consent. The study shows a statistically significant correlation between the suppression of evidence and factors related to police misconduct, and the absence of correlation for factors not related to police misconduct. Drawing on these statistical findings, this Note concludes that the voluntariness requirement is a legal fiction serving to balance the needs of effective law enforcement against the rights of suspects.