Supreme Court Ruling Just Made It Easier To Search Your House Without A Warrant

The rules of search and seizure just leaned a little bit more in favor of the government today after a Supreme court ruled that if a person declines consent to search a property, someone else who resides there can consent if the original person leaves the property. Before now you would maybe expect the police to get a warrant and come back. Now they just have to hang around until you leave and ask your roommate. Read the full 6-3 ruling here.

Summary: Police saw a suspect from a violent robbery run into an apartment complex. They heard screams come from an apartment and knocked on the door. Walter Fernandez came to the door and refused to let police search the apartment.

Suspecting he assaulted a woman who was also in the residence, they arrested him and took him to jail. Later they returned and got consent from the woman to search the place. They found items linking him to the original robbery. The Supreme Court ruled that this denial of consent is only valid for the time a person is at the residence.

If person objects to a search, how long must that objection be observed -- "A week?” A month? A year? 10 years," one justice asked.

The three dissenting justices say, “the police could readily have obtained a warrant to search the shared residence.” The dissenting justices worry that instead of obtaining a warrant now police have another way to dodge it, even when they have ample time to get one from a judge.


I'm suprised this wasn't already the case, in fact. Would we expect all the roommates to have a discussion on whether to consent to a search, and only allow the police entry if the vote was unanimous?

On the other hand, making the cops get a warrant is probably a good thing.

Well, I would expect that the petitioner/person on the lease/person who owned the property would have the final say if police could search or not, but I guess not after seeing this ruling.

I don't see why any legit person living there could not consent. I think the only questionable time would be if you had opposing answers at any given time present together. Say both were home and were present to give their answer. At that point, I think that would be a case where they either need probable cause (wife says he's beating me! Help!) or a warrant.

There's absolutely nothing and nobody in my home of interest to law enforcement but I still wouldn't want cops going through all my stuff for any reason whatsoever.