This week the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case which expands the ability of the police to search a residence even though they had originally been denied consent. The case started when police arrived at the Los Angeles home of Walter Fernandez for a suspected Robbery. When the police first arrived at Fernandez’s home, they asked for his consent to enter and search and he did not grant them consent to search. The police then determined that he had committed a domestic battery on his girlfriend and arrested him. An hour later, while Fernandez was under arrest at the police station, the police returned to his residence and obtained consent to search from his girlfriend. When they searched his residence, they recovered weapons and other evidence which connected him to the Robbery. He was eventually convicted of Robbery, gun and Domestic Battery charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He appealed his conviction arguing that the police did not have the right to search his residence since he had denied them consent.
The question facing the Supreme Court was whether the police had to obtain a warrant to search his residence in light of his denial of a consent to search? In a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court ruled that a warrant was not required and upheld the search of the home and the subsequent conviction of Fernandez. In 2006, in Georgia v. Randolph, the Supreme Court ruled that the objection of a consent to search of one occupant was valid to bar a search without a warrant even if one occupant consented so long as the occupant denying consent remained at the location. The Court held that since Fernandez was not present when the police returned, his denial was no longer in effect and when his girlfriend consented, that was all the police needed. A notable development in this case is that Justice Steven Breyer, a noted liberal on the Court, joined the majority conservative Justices in limiting the 4th Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients against robbery, and weapons charges. If you have a robbery or weapons case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.