Court Cases

Naverette v. California
Thomas, Clarence. “Naverette V. California”. 2014. Print.Abstract
A California Highway Patrol officer stopped a pickup truck that matched the description of a vehicle that a 911 caller had recently reported as having run her off the road. As officers approached the truck, they smelled marijuana. They searched the truck’s bed, found 30 pounds of marijuana, and arrested defendants, who moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment. The motion was denied. They pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana. The California Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigative stops when an officer has “a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of ... criminal activity.” Reasonable suspicion considers “the totality of the circumstances,” and depends “upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability.” The totality of the circumstances indicated that the officer had reasonable suspicion that the truck’s driver was intoxicated. The 911 call bore adequate indicia of reliability for the officer to credit the caller’s account. The caller claimed an eyewitness basis of knowledge. The apparently short time between the reported incident and the 911 call suggests that the caller had little time to fabricate the report. A reasonable officer could conclude that a false tipster would think twice before using the 911 system. The tip created reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. Reasonable suspicion “need not rule out the possibility of innocent conduct.” The officer’s failure to observe additional suspicious conduct during the short period that he followed the truck did not dispel the reason able suspicion of drunk driving.
Fernandez v. California
Alito, Samuel. “Fernandez V. California”. 2013. Web. Justia LinkAbstract
After a bystander stated that Fernandez had committed a violent robbery minutes before police responded, the police saw Fernandez run into an apartment building. They heard screams coming from an apartment and knocked on the door, which was answered by Roxanne, who was battered and bleeding. When the officers asked her to step out of the apartment so that they could conduct a protective sweep, Fernandez came to the door and objected. Suspecting that he had assaulted Roxanne, the officers removed him and placed him under arrest. He was then identified as the perpetrator in the earlier robbery and taken to the police station. An officer returned to the apartment and, after obtaining Roxanne’s oral and written consent, searched and found items linking Fernandez to the robbery. The trial court denied a motion to suppress that evidence and he was convicted. The California Court of Appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. Consent searches are permissible warrantless searches and are clearly reasonable when the consent comes from the sole occupant of the premises. When multiple occupants are involved, the rule extends to the search of the premises or effects of an absent, non-consenting occupant if “the consent of one who possesses common authority over [the] premises or effects” is obtained. When a physically present inhabitant refuses to consent, that refusal is dispositive as to him, regardless of the consent of a fellow occupant. In this case, the police had reasonable grounds for removal of Fernandez, so he was in the same position as an occupant absent for any other reason. He had been absent for some time when Roxanne consented to the search and the fact that he objected to the presence of the police when he first came to the door did not render the search unconstitutional.
Q: Does the Fourth Amendment prohibit warrantless searches when the defendant has previously objected but is no longer present and the co-tenant consents? A: No
Georgia v. Randolph
Souter, David. “Georgia V. Randolph”. 2006. Web. Download SourceAbstract

Scott Randolph was arrested for drug possession after police found cocaine in his home. The police did not have a warrant to search the home, but Randolph's wife consented to the search. Randolph was also present at the time of the search, however, and objected to the police request. At trial, his attorney argued that the search was unconstitutional because of Randolph's objection, while the prosecution argued that the consent of his wife was sufficient. The trial court ruled for the prosecution, but the appellate court and Georgia Supreme Court both sided with Randolph, finding that a search is unconstitutional if one resident objects, even if another resident consents.

Can police search a home when one physically present resident consents and the other physically present resident objects?

Scott v. Harris
Scalia, Antonin. “Scott V. Harris”. 2006. Web. Justia LinkAbstract
After a police officer attempted to pull him over for speeding, Victor Harris fled in his vehicle, initiating a high-speed car chase. Attempting to end the chase, Deputy Timothy Scott rammed Harris’s vehicle with his police cruiser. Harris crashed and was rendered a quadriplegic. Harris sued Scott in federal District Court, alleging that Scott had violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force. Scott claimed qualified immunity as a government official acting in his official capacity, but the District Court rejected the claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. In order to show that a government official is not entitled to qualified immunity, a plaintiff is required to prove that the official violated a clearly established constitutional right. The Eleventh Circuit ruled that Scott’s actions constituted an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Because there was no imminent threat – Harris remained in control of his vehicle and the roads were relatively empty – Scott’s use of deadly force was unconstitutional. Although no Appellate Court had ruled on the specific question of the use of deadly force in a high-speed chase, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the limits on deadly force were “clearly established.”
Q: Does a police officer who stops a high-speed chase by ramming a fleeing suspect's car violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable seizure? A: A person who engages in a high-speed pursuit and endangers the life of others would not have their 4th Amendment violated by being stopped with deadly force.
US v. Arvizu
Rehnquist, William. “US V. Arvizu”. US Supreme Court 2002266. Web. Download SourceAbstract
In 1998, Ralph Arvizu was stopped by Border Patrol Agent Clinton Stoddard while driving on an unpaved road in a remote area of southeastern Arizona. A number of factors prompted Stoddard to stop Arvizu, including his slowing down, his failure to acknowledge the agent, the raised position of the children's knees, and their odd waving. After receiving permission to search the vehicle, Stoddard found more than 100 pounds of marijuana. Arvizu was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Arvizu moved to suppress the marijuana, arguing among other things that Stoddard did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle as required by the Fourth Amendment. Denying the motion, the District Court cited a number of facts that gave Stoddard reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle, including its location. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that the District Court relied on factors that carried little or no weight in reasonable-suspicion calculus and that the remaining factors were not enough to render the stop permissible. In the appellate court's view, fact-specific weighing of circumstances or other multifactor tests introduced uncertainty and unpredictability into the Fourth Amendment analysis, making it necessary to clearly delimit the factors that an officer may consider in making stops such as this one.
Q: When evaluating reasonable suspicion, should the court look at each factor individually, or totality of the circumstances? A: Courts should look at totality of the circumstances.
US v. Matlock
White, Bryon. “US V. Matlock”. 1974. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Respondent was arrested in the front yard of a house in which he lived along with a Mrs. Graff (daughter of the lessees) and others. The arresting officers, who did not ask him which room he occupied or whether he would consent to a search, were then admitted to the house by Mrs. Graff and, with her consent but without a warrant, searched the house, including a bedroom, which Mrs. Graff told them was jointly occupied by respondent and herself, and in a closet of which the officers found and seized money. Respondent was indicted for bank robbery, and moved to suppress the seized money as evidence. The District Court held that, where consent by a third person is relied upon as justification for a search, the Government must show, inter alia, not only that it reasonably appeared to the officers that the person had authority to consent, but also that the person had actual authority to permit the search, and that the Government had not satisfactorily proved that Mrs. Graff had such authority. Although Mrs. Graff's statements to the officers that she and respondent occupied the same bedroom were deemed admissible to prove the officers' good faith belief, they were held to be inadmissible extrajudicial statements to prove the truth of the facts therein averred, and the same was held to be true of statements by both Mrs. Graff and respondent that they were married, which was not the case. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. When the prosecution seeks to justify a warrantless search by proof of voluntary consent, it is not limited to proof that consent was given by the defendant, but may show that permission to search was obtained from a third party who possessed common authority over or other sufficient relationship to the premises or effects sought to be inspected. Pp. 415 U. S. 169-172.

2. It was error to exclude from evidence at the suppression hearings Mrs. Graff's out-of-court statements respecting the joint occupancy of the bedroom, as well as the evidence that both respondent and Mrs. Graff had represented themselves as husband and wife. Pp. 415 U. S. 172-177.

Page 415 U. S. 165

(a) There is no automatic rule against receiving hearsay evidence in suppression hearings (where the trial court itself can accord such evidence such weight as it deems desirable), and under the circumstances here, where the District Court as satisfied that Mrs. Graff's out-of-court statements had, in fact, been made and nothing in the record raised doubts about their truthfulness, there was no apparent reason to exclude the declarations in the course of resolving the issues raised at the suppression hearings. Pp. 415 U. S. 172-176.

(b) Mrs. Graff's statements were against her penal interest, since extramarital cohabitation is a state crime. Thus, they carried their own indicia of reliability and should have been admitted as evidence at the suppression hearings, even if they would not have been admissible at respondent's trial. Pp. 415 U. S. 176-177.

3. Although, given the admissibility of the excluded statements, the Government apparently sustained its burden of proof as to Mrs. Graff's authority to consent to the search, the District Court should reconsider the sufficiency of the evidence in light of this Court's opinion. Pp. 415 U. S. 177-178.

476 F.2d 1083, reversed and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 415 U. S. 178. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 415 U. S. 188.

Can a person with "common authority" grant consent to search common areas of a residence?