SCOTUS Expands Police Power to Conduct Warrantless Search of Homes …

On February 25, 2014 the Supreme Court of the United States expanded police power to conduct warrantless searches of homes. Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. __ (2014).  The Court held that were consent to search is obtained by one occupant well after another occupant had been removed from the home, police can search the home without a warrant.  Id

The prior precedent regarding warrantless searches of homes where there was more than one occupant was when “a physically present inhabitant” refuses to consent, that refusal “is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant.” Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103.  A controlling factor in Randolph was the objecting occupant’s physical presence. Id

So what does this mean?  It means that when there is more than one occupant of a dwelling and one of the occupants is not at the residence, the other occupant may consent to a warrantless search of the dwelling.  This has been standing precedent in the Courts, however Fernandez extends this to situations where an objection to the search was stated by one of the occupants and then the occupant either left or was removed from the premises. Even if the removed occupant was removed by police force and stated his objection to the search, the police may still conduct a warrantless search if that individual is no longer at the residence and the other occupant consents. The key in Fernandez is that police may conduct a warrantless search if consent is obtained by one occupant well after another occupant had been removed from the home.