Tuesday, August 30, 2011

He says - she says: Court says - Suppress!!!


Any person with possessory interest in a property can refuse consent to search a premises, despite another resident's consent.  In United States v. Johnson, Case No. 09-6461, police received an anonymous tip that there was marijuana and a firearm at a residence.  They then went to the residence to conduct a "knock and talk" to investigate further.  A woman answered the door.  Officers asked to search the residence.  Two other people emerged from another part of the residence.  Out of the three persons present, two of the persons consented to a search, the third, the defendant in this case, testified that he did not consent, and informed police that he lived at the residence.  As you may have guessed (if not, why would we be talking about this case?), police searched, and found all sorts of goodies, leading to the defendant's arrest and prosecution.

The court ruled that there is no hierarchy for police, to determine which resident has a superior possessory interest in a property.  Rather, so long as the defendant has a privacy interest, his denial of consent has Fourth Amendment effect.  Therefore, "Johnson’s express objection to the search was sufficient to render the search of the bedroom unreasonable as to him, notwithstanding the consent given by Karen and Conerly."  The Court therefore ordered suppression of the evidence.

Congratulations to AFPD Anne-Marie Moyes of the Nashville office!

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