Kennedy Swings Again

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy once again voted with the Souter-Stevens-Ginsberg-Breyer liberal block, this time in Georgia v. Randolph, a decision involving search of a premises.

The Court's 5-3 decision (Alito did not take part) by Justice Souter:

"The Fourth Amendment recognizes a valid warrantless entry and search of premises when police obtain the voluntary consent of an occupant who shares, or is reasonably believed to share, authority over the area in common with a co-occupant who later objects to the use of evidence so obtained. ...

"The question here is whether such an evidentiary seizure is likewise lawful with the permission of one occupant when the other, who later seeks to suppress the evidence, is present at the scene and expressly refuses to consent. We hold that, in the circumstances here at issue, a physically present co-occupant’s stated refusal to permit entry prevails, rendering the warrantless search unreasonable and invalid as to him."

6 comments:

flenser said...

The good news; Roberts continues to impress.

The bad news; the Supreme Court continues to disregard the law, in the form of its own precedents and the written Constitution.

Does Souter seriously believe that a search is "unreasonable" if a spouse informs police that a crime is being committed on the premises? Sorry, but the majority of the SC justices are incompetent.

David Thomson said...

“Does Souter seriously believe that a search is "unreasonable" if a spouse informs police that a crime is being committed on the premises?”

Whoa, you’ve got it wrong. The decision has nothing to do with a spouse telling the authorities a crime is being committed. It is restricted solely to the search of the premises if the resident under investigation objects. In this particular case, I would side with the majority. The police still retain the right to search the premises if someone claims a crime has been committed.

loner said...

I agree with the majority though there isn't anything in the opinions, including the Roberts dissent, that merited my taking the time to read them.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Get a warrant.

flenser said...

loner

There was a warrant.

David


The case has everything to do with a spouse telling the authorities a crime has been commited. Did you read the ruling?

I'm reproducing the outline of the case, taken from the majority opinion.

"The Fourth Amendment recognizes a valid warrantless entry and search of premises when police obtain the voluntary consent of an occupant who shares, or is reasonably believed to share, authority over the area in common with a co-occupant who later objects to the use of evidence so obtained. Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U. S. 177 (1990); United States v. Matlock, 415 U. S. 164 (1974)."

"The question here is whether such an evidentiary seizure is likewise lawful with the permission of one occupant when the other, who later seeks to suppress the evidence, is present at the scene and expressly refuses to consent. We hold that, in the circumstances here at issue, a physically present co-occupant’s stated refusal to permit entry prevails, rendering the warrantless search unreasonable and invalid as to him."


"Respondent Scott Randolph and his wife, Janet, separated in late May 2001, when she left the marital residence in Americus, Georgia, and went to stay with her parents in Canada, taking their son and some belongings."

"In July, she returned to the Americus house with the child, though the record does not reveal whether her object was reconciliation or retrieval of remaining possessions."


"On the morning of July 6, she complained to the police that after a domestic dispute her husband took their son away, and when officers reached the house she told them that her husband was a cocaine user whose habit had caused financial troubles. She mentioned the marital problems and said that she and their son had only recently returned after a stay of several weeks with her parents.
Shortly after the police arrived, Scott Randolph returned and explained that he had removed the child to a neighbor’s house out of concern that his wife might take
the boy out of the country again; he denied cocaine use, and countered that it was in fact his wife who abused drugs and alcohol."


"One of the officers, Sergeant Murray, went with Janet Randolph to reclaim the child, and when they returned she not only renewed her complaints about her husband’s drug use, but also volunteered that there were “ ‘items of drug evidence’ ” in the house. Brief for Petitioner 3. Sergeant Murray asked Scott Randolph for permission to search the house, which he unequivocally refused."



"The sergeant turned to Janet Randolph for consent to search, which she readily gave. She led the officer upstairs to a bedroom that she identified as Scott’s, where the sergeant noticed a section of a drinking straw with a powdery residue he suspected was cocaine. He then left the house to get an evidence bag from his car and to call the district attorney’s office, which instructed him to stop the search and apply for a warrant. When Sergeant Murray returned to the house, Janet Randolph withdrew her consent. The police took the straw to the police station,
along with the Randolphs. After getting a search warrant, they returned to the house and seized further evidence of drug use, on the basis of which Scott Randolph was indicted for possession of cocaine."



I repeat; was it really "unreasonable" for the police to conduct a search under these circumstances? Only if you believe that no search should ever be conducted without a warrant.

Read what Souter said again.

"..a physically present co-occupant’s stated refusal to permit entry prevails, rendering the warrantless search unreasonable and invalid as to him."

David, I don't see how this can be squared with your claim that " The police still retain the right to search the premises if someone claims a crime has been committed." Clearly, by this ruling, they do not.

David Thomson said...

“The police still retain the right to search the premises if someone claims a crime has been committed." Clearly, by this ruling, they do not.”

The wife did not say that the husband definitely had illegal items on the property. She was merely guessing---and the police were essentially on a fishing expedition. This distinction makes all the difference in the world.

loner said...

There was a warrant....

flenser—

It was late.

from the Syllabus...

Respondent was indicted for possession of cocaine, and the trial court denied his motion
to suppress the evidence as products of a warrantless search unauthorized by consent.


...

Held: In the circumstances here at issue, a physically present co-occupant’s stated refusal to permit entry renders warrantless entry and search unreasonable and invalid as to him.

...

A co-tenant who has an interest in bringing criminal activity to light or in deflecting suspicion from himself can, e.g., tell the police what he knows, for use before a magistrate in getting a warrant.