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Georgia v. Randolph

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 2005, Argued ; March 22, 2006, Decided

No. 04-1067

Opinion

 [*106]   [***217]   [**1518]  Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

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 [****8]  to the use of evidence so obtained.  Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 110 S. Ct. 2793, 111 L. Ed. 2d 148 (1990);  United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 94 S. Ct. 988, 39 L. Ed. 2d 242 (1974). The question here is whether such an evidentiary seizure is likewise lawful [**1519]  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.

 [*107]  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 [****9]  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.

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547 U.S. 103 *; 126 S. Ct. 1515 **; 164 L. Ed. 2d 208 ***; 2006 U.S. LEXIS 2498 ****; 74 U.S.L.W. 4176; 19 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 138

GEORGIA, Petitioner v. SCOTT FITZ RANDOLPH

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA.

 State v. Randolph, 278 Ga. 614, 604 S.E.2d 835, 2004 Ga. LEXIS 991 (2004)

Disposition: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS

co-occupant, privacy, co-tenant, consenting, objecting, the Fourth Amendment, invitation, door, premises, warrantless search, cases, searches, tenant, guest, shares, expectations, consent to search, castle, admit, police officer, dwelling, cocaine, guns, physical presence, common authority, circumstances, violence, inside, wishes, straw

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Warrantless Searches, Consent to Search, General Overview, Third Party Consent