6-3 Scotus Ruling Expands Police Powers In Warrantless Searches
Central Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer On The Recent Supreme Court Decision
On Tuesday, February 25, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on a nearly five-year-old case regarding a warrantless search that was conducted by the police after a third party granted consent. As a criminal defense lawyer representing clients against misdemeanor and felony charges in Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties, any ruling affecting the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens is of significant interest to my clients and to my practice. In this case, the High Court’s decision could, in certain instances, alleviate law enforcement’s requirement to obtain a warrant before entering and searching residences.
The Facts of the Case
Walter Fernandez is a South Los Angeles resident who was arrested for robbery in 2009. When the police came to his residence to make contact with Fernandez, his girlfriend opened the door to them, but Fernandez verbally refused to allow the police to enter or search the apartment. The police arrested Fernandez and returned an hour later. Fernandez’s girlfriend authorized a search of the residence in his absence, and the police uncovered a shotgun that was believed to be connected with the armed robbery. Fernandez’s criminal defense attorney moved to have the search suppressed, but the motion was denied. He appealed up to the California Supreme Court, which upheld the conviction.
The Supreme Court Decision and Implications for Clients
In a six to three vote, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the California Supreme Court decision and upheld the warrantless search. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito stated, “A warrantless consent search is reasonable and thus consistent with the 4th Amendment irrespective of the availability of a warrant. Even with modern technological advances, the warrant procedure imposes burdens on the officers who wish to search [and] the magistrate who must review the warrant application.” This essentially provides police officers with a loophole in similar situations where a cooperative cohabitant is willing to authorize access—even over the protests of the accused. If, in fact, officers are able to make an arrest based on separate probable cause—probable cause that is independent of the search—they can return and obtain consent to search without a warrant from another resident. This could mean the collection of additional prosecutorial evidence to bolster the case or bring new charges against the defendant.
Professional Private Criminal Defense Lawyer of Central Florida
If you have been under arrested by the police or are under investigation for a crime, do not agree to answer questions or consent to a search of your car or residence before speaking with a reputable criminal defense lawyer. For nearly three decades, I have been successfully defending individuals against criminal charges in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. To schedule an appointment, contact Stanley M. Silver, Attorney at Law at (407) 869-1616.