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Law School Case Brief

Illinois v. Rodriguez - 497 U.S. 177, 110 S. Ct. 2793 (1990)

Rule:

The Fourth Amendment generally prohibits the warrantless entry of a person's home, whether to make an arrest or to search for specific objects. The prohibition does not apply, however, to situations in which voluntary consent has been obtained, either from the individual whose property is searched, or from a third party who possesses common authority over the premises.

Facts:

Police officers who were summoned to a Chicago, Illinois residence were met by a woman who showed signs of having been severely beaten. In a conversation with the officers, the woman stated that she had been assaulted by the accused earlier in the day at an apartment on another Chicago street, and that the accused was asleep at the apartment. Several times during the conversation, the woman referred to the apartment as "our" apartment. The woman consented to travel to the apartment with the officers in order to unlock the door with her key so that the officers could enter and arrest the accused. Without obtaining either an arrest warrant for the accused or a search warrant for the apartment, the officers drove to the apartment, accompanied by the woman. Once there, the woman unlocked the door with her key and gave the officers permission to enter. The officers entered and observed in plain view drug paraphernalia and containers filled with a white powder that they believed--and that later analysis showed--to be cocaine. Proceeding to the bedroom, the officers found the accused asleep and discovered additional containers of white powder in two open attaché cases. The officers arrested the accused and seized the drugs and related paraphernalia. The accused, who was charged in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, moved to suppress all evidence seized at the time of his arrest, on the ground that the woman had vacated the apartment several weeks earlier and had no authority to consent to the officers' entry. The circuit court granted the motion and ruled that at the time she consented to the entry, the woman did not have common authority over the apartment. The court further held that the Federal Constitution's Fourth Amendment was violated even if the officers reasonably believed at the time of their entry that the woman possessed the authority to consent. The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District affirmed the decision.

Issue:

Does a warrantless arrest violate the defendant’s right under the Fourth Amendment, where such entry is based upon the consent of a third party whom the police, at the time of entry, reasonably believe to possess common authority over the premises?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that a warrantless entry does not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures where such entry is based upon the consent of a third party whom the police, at the time of entry, reasonably believe to possess common authority over the premises, but who in fact does not possess such authority. However, since the lower court failed to render a decision on the issue, the Court remanded the case for further determination whether the police officers possessed a reasonable belief that defendant's former roommate had common authority over the apartment.

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