Georgia v. Randolph

Georgia v. Randolph

United States Supreme Court
547 U.S. 103 (2006)

ISSUE: May police conduct a search consented to by a 3rd party if the another cotenant is present and objects to the search?
HOLDING: No, a warrantless search of a shared dwelling for evidence over the express refusal of consent by aphysically present resident cannot be justified as reasonable as to him on the basis of consent given to the police by another resident.
FACTS:
  • Scott and Janet Randolph were separated, and Janet took their son with her to Canada to live with Janet's parents
  • She later returned to the marital residence and complained to police about a domestic dispute that Scott had taken their son away
  • When the officers arrived, Janet told police that Scott was a cocaine user and that "items of drug evidence" could be found inside
  • Officers asked Scott for permission to search, but he refused.  They then asked Janet, and she consented
  • Officer saw a straw with a powdery substance on it, and the DA told him to leave and get a warrant
  • He returned to the house, Janet withdrew her consent, and he entered and took the straw anyways
  • Officers then went and got a warrant and returned and seized more evidence
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Trial Ct. refused to suppress evidence
  • Ct. App. reversed and Sup. Ct. affirmed
RULES:
  • United States v. Matlock: The consent of one who possesses common authority over premises or effects is valid as against the absent, nonconsenting person with whom that authority is shared
    • Authority to grant consent rests upon the mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control for most purposes, so that it is reasonable to recognize that any of the co-inhabitants has the right to permit the inspection in his own right
REASONING:
  • No common understand when one refuses consent: There is no common understanding that one cotenant generally has a right or authority to prevail over the express wishes of another
    • The consent of one does not counter the force of the objecting individual's claim to security against government intrusions
    • Consenting cotenant could deliver evidence to police instead in order to establish PC for a warrant
  • Doesn't change exigent circumstances: One cotenant's refusal to admit police has no bearing on protecting victims of DV inside
  • Search here invalid: Scott's objection was clear, and nothing in the record justifies the search over his refusal

COMMENTS:

  • This limitation is quite limited: the objecting cotenant must be physically present at the threshold (i.e., not calling in on a cell phone).
  • For the general third-party consent doctrine, see United States v. Matlock and Illinois v. Rodriguez).

 

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