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Supreme Court Allows Disputed Home Searches Without Warrant

February 25, 2014  | 

Police can search a home without a warrant if one of the occupants consents — and even if an occupant who would object isn’t home at the time, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, reports nbcnews.com.

The 6-3 vote, which highlights Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, stems from a 2009 case in Los Angeles.

Walter Fernandez was suspected in an earlier robbery and stabbing, and when police arrived without a warrant at his apartment, he told them they couldn’t come inside. Officers, however, noticed his girlfriend was bruised and bloodied, and so they removed Fernandez on suspicion of domestic abuse.

In the meantime, the girlfriend, who also lived at the apartment, allowed police in. Authorities found a shotgun, ammunition and a knife.

Tags: Search Warrants, U.S. Supreme Court Cases


Comments (16)

Displaying 1 - 16 of 16

rustysmith7 @ 2/25/2014 5:03 PM

About time.

S @ 2/25/2014 5:41 PM

Take a look

rustysmith7 @ 2/25/2014 6:25 PM

About time.

Leonard Mather @ 2/25/2014 6:45 PM

Common sense, logic, good thinking and planning with creative application of the law are all exemplified in this ruling. Of course it will upset all the Liberal Wussies, Wimps and equivocators whose purpose seems to be to impede good police work.

gunsmittys @ 2/25/2014 7:51 PM

So its okay to forcibly search a residence when there is a squabble between siblings, other relatives, husband/wife. This will further erode and make the 4th Amendment less relevant; much like TSA does everyday.

Sorry to disagree with the popularity of this ruling; but like SCOTUS ruling ocare to be a tax, this is bad law. It reduces people's rights and will allow for more Constitutional abuses. If we are that convinced that the residence has evidence; get a warrant, unless there is a exigent circumstance; not just he/she disagreed on allowing the search.

FloridaPoliceOfficer @ 2/25/2014 8:35 PM

A parent has always been able to give consent to search for a child residing in their residence. It would be reasonable that another adult household/family member can give authorization for a consensual search.
Since I live alone, the ruling does not effect me personally. In my situation, GET A WARRANT !

Steve @ 2/25/2014 8:36 PM

In response to "gunsmitty"....this doesnt hurt anyone but the bad guys buddy.. No honest living productive member of society should appeal this or disagree. It makees it easier for us (the good guys) to apprehend the bad guys, plain and simple! They have 0 rules to follow yet we get nickled and dimed on anything that a defense lawyer can manipulate... Good ruling!

HoustonFuzz @ 2/25/2014 9:01 PM

In response to Florida PO, The Parent could only give consent if the child does not pay rent. If the adult child pays rent, and the door to their room is locked, then that will be an illegal search without a warrant.

BrianL @ 2/26/2014 6:15 AM

In response to Gunsmittys, did you read the article? It said the female had obvious signs of injury..."bruised and bloody". I'm only going on this article, I have no insight into the incident. So, in my opinion the Police had PC to go in and check on the female's welfare, based on possible domestic assault. If the Officers observed possible evidence of the robbery and/or stabbing (Felonies) in plain view, there is/was no need for a search warrant. With that being said, if nothing was observed in the immediate reach of where the suspect initially was, they should not have conducted a search of the residence, as the suspect did not give consent to search. The officers at that point, should have removed the female and any other occupants, conducted no further search of the residence and secured a search warrant. That way there would be no question to the officers actions.

Andy Gore @ 2/26/2014 6:39 AM

Well, I dont agree with the ruling either. I have been in LE for 18 years, a large part in criminal investigations. The officers in Los Angeles, had plenty of probable cause to get a warrant, so they should have done just that. To the ones that say it will only hurt bad guys, that is NOT true. I really don't understand how the supreme court couldcome to that decision. The fourth ammendment clearly defines that no search will occur without a warrant signed by a Judge. This is how your rights are slowly erroded to the point until they no longer exist.

Richard Hightower @ 2/26/2014 6:55 AM

There is no need for this ruling. It is an erosion of our Constitution and degrades the Rule of Law. In the cited case, there was no reason to go down this Rabbit Hole. It was LAZY law enforcement. The situation was under control and no one was in danger. There was plenty of time to get someone to a Magistrate and get a proper and LEGAL warrant without the subterfuge. Doing it properly would have prevented this from going through the system all the way to SCOTUS and WASTING A LOT OF TAXPAYER’S MONEY in the process. This is a very bad ruling by SCOTUS and will only encourage shoddy law enforcement besides damaging the US Constitution and the Rule of Law.

FedCop @ 2/26/2014 7:33 AM

Lot's of conclusions being jumped to by commenters here, which seems rather unprofessional to say the least. This ruling really changes nothing, it serves to further explain previous rulings in Randolph, Matlock, etc. Spend an hour a week away from the weight room and in the law library. Your prosecuting attorney will have one that is well stocked. And one more thing of note. The Fourth Amendment does NOT say that no search will occur without a warrant signed by a judge. It prohibits UNREASONABLE search without a warrant. The Court decides what is reasonable, and over the years has defined a pretty detailed list of exceptions to the warrant requirement. I shudder to think that experienced officers are getting search warrants to search offenders they have just arrested, because they don't or won't accept "search incident to arrest" as a well delineated exception!

Retired @ 2/26/2014 8:11 AM

I pretty much agree with what FedCop said. I do have a problem if a very questionable arrest/detainment is made as a pretext to remove the person who would object from the scene. Otherwise the ruling just reinforces the law as I previously understood it. I expect to see future cases where this ruling is pushed to the extreme and very weak justification for an arrest/detainment is made as a pretext to remove the objector. It seems in this case that although the arrest/detainment may have been a pretext there was solid articulable justification for it. The ruling will be abused by some, but what isn't.

PS: For better or worse, the "Search incident to arrest" has been greatly restricted by recent rulings.

NPPD01 @ 2/26/2014 11:18 AM

This is nothing more than we have always been doing. She, the girlfriend lives there, and has the right to allow a search. It just has taken 5 years to get through the system. The SCOTUS got this one right.

PSC @ 2/26/2014 10:43 PM

Simple question: Why does an article on such an important ruling not cite the name of the case involved, or offer a link to the ruling itself?

Here you go ...

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-7822_he4l.pdf

Johnny Law @ 2/27/2014 8:41 AM

Much ado about very little! Both adults share the residence and the one assaulted gave consent to search. She has a right to do this since she lives in the residence. Of course the dirt bag didn't give consent because he knew what was in the home. No rights being eroded or hand wringing needed! If we come to your residence and find your wife or girlfriend bruised and bloodied and you are a suspect in a robbery and stabbing we will ask to search your home also. Move on to the next call!!

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