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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Police Can Rely on Co-Tenant Consent for Search

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of police in a case that should make it easier for police to search a dwelling without a warrant.  In Fernandez v. California, (USSCT, Feb. 25, 2014), the court voted 6-3 that police can search a home without a warrant, even if the suspect had previously objected to the search, as long as he is no longer on the scene and a co-tenant gives consent.

Fernandez claimed the search was unconstitutional and the evidence found during the search, including firearms and gang paraphernalia, shouldn't have been admitted at his trial, where he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for robbery. 

Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion, finding that the written consent form signed by Fernandez's co-tenant made the search legitimate.  The opinion further stated that ruling against the police could create a situation where lawful occupants are prevented from inviting the police into their homes to conduct searches. The opinion continued that "Any other rule would trample on the rights of the occupant who is willing to consent."

Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan all dissented, stating that the majority opinion could result in giving police an incentive to avoid asking a judge for a search warrant.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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