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Consenting to a Search – No Warrant Needed

Friday / April 11, 2014

If you have a roommate or live with someone, do not get on their bad side – at least according to the United States Supreme Court in a recent ruling. In the last term, the Court handed down the decision of Fernandez v. California. In Fernandez, a man was attacked and later identified his attacker as Walter Fernandez.  Detectives interviewed witnesses and determined that the suspect was hiding in a nearby apartment. When police asked to search the apartment, Fernandez came forward and refused them entry. Police arrested Fernandez and secured him in a police cruiser after which Officers went back to the apartment and asked Fernandez’s roommate if they could search the apartment. Fernandez’s roommate consented to the search verbally and in writing.  During the search police found incriminating items including gang paraphernalia, a gun, and a knife. Fernandez moved to suppress the evidence based on a illegal search. The Supreme Court found that while warrant less searches are per se unreasonable and that a warrant is generally required to enter into a home, the search became reasonable when the objecting party left.


An individual’s home is the place where a person has the highest expectation of privacy.  Normally the only way officers can search a persons home is with a valid warrant. In order to get a valid warrant an officer must articulate a specific reason as to the search and specifically what officers are searching for.  Officers are required to submit that information to a judge to review and determine if there is probable cause to justify a search inside someone’s home.  While probable cause is one of the lower legal standards in existence, officers are required to have enough information to convince a judge they know what they are talking about.  Also, the specificity requirement is a huge requirement.  Officers are not allowed to generalize searches for “anything illegal.”  They must pick specific items or crimes and information relevant to those items.  This does not mean that officer are not allowed to use other evidence discovered during a valid search if it is in plain view as the officer’s are searching.


Home searches and warrants are extremely complicated matters. Having a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side can help to make sure your rights are protected. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, immediately seek an attorney’s help to ensure the accused’s rights are protected.  To schedule a no obligation consultation with my office, visit my website at or by calling me at 480-331-7568.

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