Georgia v. Randolph
547 U.S. 103, 126 S. Ct. 1515, 164 L. Ed.2d 208 (2006)

  • Randolph and his wife were having marital problems. They got into a big fight and Randolph walked out with their son. The wife called the police.
  • Randolph’s wife told the police that Randolph was a drug user. Randolph returned and denied using drugs.
  • Randolph’s wife told the police that there were drugs in the house and she’d show them where they were. Randolph refused to consent to a search of the house, but his wife gave her consent. She took the police upstairs where they found evidence of drug use.
  • The police called the DA who told them to stop the search and get a warrant. They arrested the Randolphs, got a warrant, came back and found more drugs. Randolph was arrested for drug possession.
  • The Trial Court convicted Randolph of drug possession. He appealed.
    • Randolph argued that the police could not search his house without his consent, regardless of what his wife may have consented to. Therefore the search was unreasonable and violation of the 4th Amendment.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and granted a motion to suppress. The prosecutor appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that “an individual who chooses to live with another assumes a risk no greater than an inability to control access to the premises during their absence.”
  • The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. The prosecutor appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that a co-resident could refuse a consent search even if another resident consented (as long as they were physically present).
      • “A physically present co-occupant’s stated refusal to permit entry prevails, rendering the warrantless search unreasonable and invalid as to him.”
    • One of the key points in this decision was the fact that Randolph was physically present and explicitly refused consent. In previous cases, the US Supreme Court had held that one resident could give consent if the other resident is not present, even if that other resident later objects.
      • See Illinois v. Rodriguez (497 U.S. 177 (1990)), and United States v. Matlock (415 U.S. 164 (1974)).
    • The Court noted that common social expectations are that if one person says yes to inviting someone in and one person says no, then the caller generally would not feel invited to come in.
  • In a dissent it was argued that a roommate could always take some evidence out of the house and give it to the police. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to your roommates in a similar way to how there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for statements you make to a third party.
  • Basically, the rule is that a person can grant consent to a search a home if their roommates are not present to object. However, if an objector is present, the search cannot produce admissible evidence against that person.
  • Consent can be give by a third party (like a roommate). Interestingly, if it turns out that this person couldn’t give consent (like they were lying about being your roommate), the evidence of the search is still admissible under the good faith exception.
    • See Illinois v. Rodriguez.