The Roberts Court (2005–present)
In what search and seizure case did the Roberts Court invalidate a warrantless search because the husband denied consent?
The Roberts Court ruled 6–3 in Georgia v. Randolph (2006) that law enforcement officials violated the Fourth Amendment when they searched an estranged couple’s home with the wife’s initial consent but without the husband’s consent. Writing for the majority, Justice David Souter reasoned that “a warrantless search of a shared dwelling for evidence over the express refusal of consent by a physically present resident cannot be justified as reasonable as to him on the basis of consent given to the police by another resident.”
The case began when Janet Randolph called the police and told them that her husband Scott used drugs and there were “items of drug evidence” in the house. Mr. Randolph returned home before the police began their search and explicitly objected to the search.
The officer then received permission from Janet Randolph to search the premises and noticed a cocaine straw. He then went to his car to get an evidence bag and call for a warrant. When the officer returned, Janet Randolph withdrew her consent but the officer took the straw and later returned with a search warrant. Scott Randolph was later charged with possession of cocaine.
Scott Randolph filed a motion to suppress, contending that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the officer initially engaged in a warrantless search of his home in the face of his denials of permission. A trial court denied his motion, but the Georgia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court ruled in his favor.