Supreme Court Rules Police Can Search Home Without Consent

Criminal DefenseFelony

February 26, 2014

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark 6-3 decision holding that police, under certain circumstances, may conduct a search of a residence over the objection of the owner. In Fernandez v. California (2014), Los Angeles, California police officers confronted the defendant, Walter Fernandez, who was suspected of involvement in a robbery, at his home.

Fernandez told the officers that they didn’t have any right to enter his home, but the officers placed him under arrest after observing circumstances which led them to believe he had beaten his girlfriend. After taking Fernandez to the station, police returned to the home and the girlfriend allowed them to enter the home. While inside, the officers discovered weapons and other evidence linking Fernandez to the robbery.

Before trial, Fernandez moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the police should have obtained a warrant to search the home. The trial court denied the motion and, following a trial, Fernandez was convicted of multiple charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that the police were not required to obtain a warrant for Fernandez’s residence, because the consent of any occupant of a home is sufficient to validate a search. Dissenting Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, opined that “the police could readily have obtained a warrant to search the shared residence” and should have done so.

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