William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


At some point in your life, you may have a personal encounter with a police officer. During that moment, you may feel utterly powerless, especially if you do not know your rights. One important right that police are not required to inform people of is their right to deny an officer’s request to search their property. Forty-eight years ago, the Supreme Court made its position clear in Schneckloth v. Bustamonte that requiring law enforcement to provide citizens with this warning would be “thoroughly impractical.” Since then, the relationship between law enforcement and society—especially communities of color—has gradually deteriorated, and states have slowly turned away from Schneckloth’s rationale. As such, this Note revisits Schneckloth and takes a closer look at the inconsistencies within the Court’s current consent search doctrine. This Note also explores the Court’s problematic and unrealistic “totality of the circumstances” approach and the realities of consenting as a person of color. Ultimately, this Note proposes that all states adopt a modest approach to consent searches by requiring all police officers to provide warnings before requesting consent.