Returning DL can help avoid consent problems

Vehicle searches are conducted on a daily basis by police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers on roadways throughout the country.  And every day defense lawyers are successful in getting judges to suppress evidence obtained by showing that the vehicle operator's consent to search was not voluntary.

In order to keep the Exclusionary Rule at bay, law enforcers requesting consent need to be sure that the consent was granted knowingly and voluntarily without a hint of cooercion or duress present.  Some agencies do this on a verbal basis, while others have a policy and/or practice in place that call for both verbal and written formats of consent to search authorization.

Whatever the case, consent seeking officers should make it clear to the driver that the traffic stop portion of the encounter has concluded and that they are free to leave.  One way to sabotage your efforts is to keep possession of the driver's license even while obtaining consent.

Be sure to return the driver's license to the vehicle operator prior to obtaining consent.  If your vehicle search does turn into an arrest, document the driver's license physical return to the operator in your report's narrative.  That will stop the defense attorney from successfully raising the issue of the consent not being given voluntarily and thus any evidence arising from the search being excluded from the legal proceedings.

About the author

Dr. Richard Weinblatt is a criminal justice educator, former police chief, police media commentator and an instructor in multiple disciplines. He has earned Florida Criminal Justice Standards certifications in general law enforcement topics, firearms, defensive tactics, and vehicle operations, as well as instructor certifications for Taser, pepper spray, and expandable baton. He holds the Certified Law Enforcement Trainer (CLET) designation from the American Society for Law Enforcement Training (ASLET) and is a certified AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer. Dr. Weinblatt is Dean of the School of Public and Social Services & Education/Assoc. Professor of Criminal Justice at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN.  He previously served as Director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College near Columbus, OH, Professor and Program Manager for the Criminal Justice Institute at Seminole Community College near Orlando, FL, and Chairman of the Public Services Dept./Criminal Justice Instructor at South Piedmont Community College near Charlotte, NC. Dr. Weinblatt has worked in several regions of the country in reserve and full-time sworn positions ranging from auxiliary police lieutenant in New Jersey to patrol division deputy sheriff in New Mexico to reserve deputy sheriff in Florida and police chief in North Carolina. Dr. Weinblatt has written extensively on law enforcement topics since 1989. He had a regular column in Law and Order Magazine for a decade and he has also written for Police, Sheriff, American Police Beat, Narc Officer, and others. Dr. Weinblatt has provided media commentary on police matters for local and national media including CBS Evening News, CNN, MSNBC, HLN, and The Washington Post. Dr. Weinblatt earned a Bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice, a Master of Public Administration in Criminal Justice, an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate of Education. Weinblatt may be reached through

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