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U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS considers constitutionality of home search when suspect objects and girlfriend later consents

Posted Nov 14, 2013 2:33 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court considered on Wednesday whether police had the right to search a home after arresting a robbery suspect and then getting consent from his live-in girlfriend.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor commented that allowing the search would mean there’s nothing left to a 2006 ruling on differing consent, the Los Angeles Times reports. That decision, Georgia v. Randolph, found a police search was unconstitutional when one occupant of a home objects, but the other consents at the same time.

"So there's nothing left to Randolph," Sotomayor said. "Police just remove the person."

Sotomayor appeared to be in the minority, however. According to the Times, most of the justices appeared ready to uphold the warrantless search in the case, Fernandez v. California.

The search occurred in October 2009. Police went to the apartment of gang member Walter Fernandez because they had reason to believe a suspect who had robbed and slashed a man was inside, according to prior stories on the case by the ABA Journal and SCOTUSblog. Fernandez’s bruised and bloodied girlfriend answered the door.

Fernandez told police they had no right to be there, but police removed him from the house and then arrested him because he resembled the robbery suspect. The girlfriend later gave consent to the search, which turned up evidence linking him to the robbery.

Sotomayor was the only justice who "strongly argued" for a warrant, the Los Angeles Times says.

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