Brank earns $200,000 research grant

Eve Brank
Eve Brank

Eve Brank, associate professor of psychology, has been awarded a nearly $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to conduct research into why citizens consent to searches. She will work with Jennifer Groscup of Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., on the project.

The grant is from the NSF's Law and Social Science program. The duo will examine the reasons why a vast majority of Americans consent to police requests for searches, even though they are often not legally bound to do so.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to be free from unreasonable searches; however a search does not violate the Fourth Amendment if a person voluntarily consents to be searched.

Brank and Groscup’s proposal states that the reasons why people consent to searches, even when they are in possession of illegal material, are poorly understood, which in turn makes it difficult for courts to assess voluntariness of consent in a systematic way.

“Previous research in this area has mostly focused on how people perceive the voluntariness of someone else’s consent,” Brank said. “When actual consenters are asked about their experiences, they say that they consented because they thought the police would have searched whether they consented or not or there would have been punishment repercussions if they did not consent.”

Brank said the goal of the research, which is to consist of five studies, is to identify factors that influence the consents and to identify factors that increase coercion to consent.

“The results of this research will provide important information to the courts in their consideration of consent searches, which will be essential to the protection of fundamental Constitutional rights,” Brank said.

— Deann Gayman, University Communications