Supreme Court Upholds Search Of Apartment

It is a fairly common occurrence in Long Beach, the police are called out to a home due to a report of domestic violence or other crime.  When they arrive they knock on the door and want to come inside to conduct a search.  Ordinarily, unless some exigency exists, they need the consent of the occupants.  When one of the residents object to the search, the officers are barred from entry under the fourth amendment.  In this recent case, the high court makes an exception to that rule when the objector is subsequently arrested and taken to jail.  Here are the facts of the case:

Police officers observed a robbery suspect run into an apartment building, and heard screams coming from an apartment. They knocked on the apartment door, which was answered by Rojas, who was battered and bleeding. Fernandez then came out of the apartment and objected to a search of the apartment. Suspecting that Fernandez had assaulted Rojas, officers removed and arrested him. He was then identified as the perpetrator of the robbery, and taken to the police station. Officers then obtained Rojas’s consent to search, and found several items of evidence linking Fernandez to the robbery. The criminal trial court denied Fernandez’s motion to suppress the evidence and he was convicted. The appellate court affirmed, holding that because Fernandez was not present when Rojas consented to the search, the exception to permissible warrantless consent searches of jointly occupied premises recognized in Georgia v. Randolph (2006) 547 U.S. 103 did not apply. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. Held: Affirmed. In Randolph, the court held that the consent of one occupant to conduct a search is insufficient when another occupant is present and objects to the search. In this opinion, the court refused to extend Randolph the situation in this case, where consent was provided well after Fernandez had been lawfully removed from the apartment. The fact that Fernandez was not present due to his lawful arrest did not place him in any position different from any other absent occupant. (Courtesy of CCAP)

This case exemplifies the lengths the court is willing to go to skirt the general rule that a search of a home requires a warrant.  The defendant in this case has exhausted all appeals and this case now becomes law of the land.


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