Georgia v. Randolph

Following is the case brief for Georgia v. Randolph, United States Supreme Court, (2006)

Case summary for Georgia v. Randolph:

  • Police arrived at the Randolph home subsequent to Mrs. Randolph’s call to respond to a domestic disturbance. Mrs. Randolph mentioned her husband used cocaine.
  • In response, the police asked to search their home to which Mrs. Randolph consented and Mr. Randolph refused.
  • The police proceeded to search the home finding cocaine. Mr. Randolph was convicted and appealed his conviction alleging his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches had been violated.
  • The Court held that under the Fourth Amendment, the police may not conduct a warrantless search even though one occupant consents to a search when the other present occupant objects.

Georgia v. Randolph Case Brief

Statement of the facts:

Randolph’s wife placed a call to the police alleging a domestic disturbance.  Mrs. Randolph proceeded to inform the officers that her husband used cocaine and the officers asked permission to search their home.  Mrs. Randolph consented to a search and Mr. Randolph objected. The officers searched the home, following Mrs. Randolph upstairs where they discovered cocaine in the bedroom. The evidence was introduced at trial as the court held Mrs. Randolph had the authority to consent to the search of the home. Mr. Randolph appealed.

Procedural History:

The state court of appeals reversed the trail court’s decision and the state supreme court affirmed. The state petitioned to the United States Supreme Court and certiorari was granted.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

When police obtain consent to enter a home from one occupant and the other is present and objects, the police may not search the home without a warrant.

Issue and Holding:

Whether the police may conduct a warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment, when one occupant of a home gives consent and the other present occupant objects? No.

Judgment:

The Court affirmed the state supreme court’s judgment.

Reasoning:

  • The police may not search a home, absent a warrant, when one occupant consents to a search and the other present occupant objects.

The Court referred to the precedent set out in United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S 164 (1974), where the police may search a home with consent of a present co-occupant despite the other non-present occupant’s later objection. The Court held that decision is premised on social expectations and assumptions regarding people who share a home. The case is distinguishable from the present case as Mr. and Mrs. Randolph were both present at the time consent was requested.

The Court further discussed this primary assumption regarding the equal authority of all of the occupants, in addition to assumptions about how people act regarding the equal authority. For example a guest is unlikely to enter when invited by one occupant but instructed to stay away by the other.

The Court also considered Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91 (1990), where it held that an overnight guest has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the house in which he remains since the occupant is unlikely to invite someone inside of the home over the guest’s objection. The Court held that this Fourth Amendment right transfers to co-inhabitants when they are present and expressly reject permission to enter. When these situations arise, one occupant lacks authority over the other. As a result, when a present occupant expressly objects to a search, consent of a co-occupant provides no additional authority for police to enter without a warrant or showing of exigent circumstances.

In the present case, responding officers wanted to enter the Randolph’s home to look for evidence of cocaine and failed to claim exigent circumstances related to preserving the evidence or protecting Mrs. Randolph.  Since Mr. Randolph was physically present refused entry when his wife granted permission to give permission to search, the subsequent search by police was unreasonable.

Dissenting or Concurring opinions:

Concurring (Stevens):

When considering the original interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, the search of the home would be unconstitutional. This is because when the amendment was drafted, Randolph would have had a greater property interest in the house than his wife. As a result, Mr. Randolph would have the authority to overrule her wishes.

Concurring (Breyer):

The reasonableness of a warrantless search in following cases should be evaluated by weighing the totality of the circumstances to determine whether exigent circumstances exist that would justify an immediate police entry.

Dissenting (Scalia):

The person who may consent to a warrantless search of a home may change while Fourth Amendment protections stay intact. Such an approach to constitutional interpretation should not be easily dismissed by the majority.

Dissenting (Roberts):

The police only need the consent of someone authorized to give it in order for a warrantless search to be reasonable. The majority’s opinion is not grounded in Fourth Amendment privacy jurisprudence. Under Matlock, when people share a home they assume the risk of living with others and compared it to trusting others will keep a secret.The right to privacy of shared things or places is not absolute. The right is limited by any who lives in the shared home or maintains the authority to consent to searches of the shared home.

The part of the majority’s decision that is based on human behavior is improper as different people behave differently.  In addition, the Court’s holding potentially prevents the police from protecting victims of domestic violence where the abuser refuses entry despite the victims consent.

Significance:

Georgia v. Randolph extended Fourth Amendment protections applying them to warrantless searches when two occupants are present and one consents to a search, while the other rejects consent.

Student Resources:

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/547/103/
https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-1067.ZO.html

 

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