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Third Party Consent Searches

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 30 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2006 Pages: 70-72
Devallis Rutledge
Date Published
May 2006
3 pages
This article presents the new Supreme Court ruling, in the case of Randolph versus Georgia in relation to third party consent searches where one occupant gives consent, but the other occupant, who is present, refuses consent.
After the State supreme court decision in Randolph versus Georgia, the general rules on third-party consent searches can be summarized as follows: (1) property owners cannot validly consent to police entry or search while a tenant or guest has lawful right of possession of the premises; (2) when the suspect is not present or makes no objection, a co-occupant can give valid consent; but (3) if one co-occupant is present and objects, another cannot give valid consent as to evidence incriminating the objector. The third rule came about when in the case of Randolph versus Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs. Randolph’s consent for the police to search her and Mr. Randolph’s house for drugs he was to have had in his possession was invalid because it was against her husband’s objection. The State appealed the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the State ruling and suppressed the evidence. The Court said that when both occupants are present and one objects, the other does not have the authority to override a co-occupant’s refusal to consent. This new ruling nullifies the decisions in many State and Federal cases that have held that consent is valid if given by any responsible co-occupant, even over the objection of another occupant.