26 February, 19:33

Supreme Court Gives Police Power to Conduct Warrantless Searches

Supreme Court Gives Police Power to Conduct Warrantless Searches

The Feb. 24 United States Supreme Court’s decision in Fernandez v. California gave law enforcement expanded authority to conduct warrantless searches. Professor Victor Williams of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University explained the police in this case made an affirmative judgment not to get a search warrant.

“And the Supreme Court has said the starting point in analyzing any of these police actions regarding searches is to say was there a search warrant. If there is a search warrant, then that is obviously reasonable. Now if there is no search warrant in order for it to be a reasonable search under the Fourth amendment we need to have a quote on quote exception to the warrant requirement. Consent is widely understood to be such an exception so we say was there a warrant? And no, there wasn’t.”

The court held in its decision the live-in girlfriend gave police this required consent even though her boyfriend had told police no before he was arrested and taken away. Professor Williams said this was not the first time the Court had considered the question of whether or not someone else at the residence may consent to a police search after a co-habitant has said no to police.

“There has actually been a line of cases that ask the question when we have this circumstance of more than one person with quote common authority over the premises where we have a roommate situation, where we have spousal situation or as in this case a girlfriend situation. The Court has been fairly consistent in saying if the individual has been removed from the premises and you ask the girlfriend, you ask the boyfriend, may we search. If consent is given they can do that.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said had the Court not ruled for the government, lawful occupants would be prevented from inviting the police into their homes to conduct searches in similar situations.

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