Supreme Court eases restrictions on warrantless home searches

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 6-3 Tuesday in Fernandez v. California [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that police may search a home without a warrant over the objection of one occupant if that occupant has been removed from the premises. The Court of Appeals of California concluded [opinion] that Supreme Court precedent established in 2006 in Georgia v. Randolph [opinion; JURIST report] "does not require exclusion of the evidence obtained in the warrantless search of defendant's home." In a majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the court agreed:

In this case, we consider whether Randolph applies if the objecting occupant is absent when another occupant consents. Our 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.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

The court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the case in November. One of the main issues in this case was whether defendant's objection barred his wife from giving a valid consent to the police to search the defendant's home without a warrant. The defendant argued that his objection to search cannot be nullified by his subsequent arrest because it would create possibilities of state abuse. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the case last May.

 

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