Fourth Amendment and Consent Searches

Public Law Update – SCOTUS refines case law governing consent searches, thereby limiting its Randolph decision. On February 25, 2014, the Supreme Court made clear that, under certain circumstances, the Fourth Amendment allows one occupant to consent to a search, even after a co-occupant previously objects. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito explained the Supreme Court cases firmly establish that police officers may search jointly occupied premises if one of the occupants consents. However, in Georgia v. Randolph547 U. S. 103 (2006), the Court recognized a narrow exception to this rule, holding the consent of one occupant is insufficient when another occupant is present and objects to the search. Last month in Fernandez v. California, the Court considered whether Randolph applies if the objecting occupant is absent when another occupant consents. Justice Alito explained, “[o]ur opinion in Randolph took great pains to emphasize that its holding was limited to situations in which the objecting occupant is physically present. We therefore refuse to extend Randolph to the very different situation in this case, where consent was provided by an abused woman well after her male partner had been removed from the apartment they shared.

Click here for the entire Fernandez v. California opinion,