Fernandez v. Cal., No. 12–7822.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation571 U.S. 292,188 L.Ed.2d 25,134 S.Ct. 1126
Parties Walter FERNANDEZ, Petitioner v. CALIFORNIA.
Docket NumberNo. 12–7822.
Decision Date25 February 2014

571 U.S. 292
134 S.Ct.
1126
188 L.Ed.2d 25

Walter FERNANDEZ, Petitioner
v.
CALIFORNIA.

No. 12–7822.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Nov. 13, 2013.
Decided Feb. 25, 2014.


Jeffrey L. Fisher, Stanford, CA, for Petitioner.

Louis W. Karlin, Los Angeles, CA, for Respondent.

Joseph R. Palmore, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the respondent.

Jeffrey L. Fisher, Counsel of Record, Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford, CA, Kevin K. Russell, Goldstein & Russell, P.C., Washington, DC, Gerald P. Peters, Law Office of Gerald Philip Peters, Thousand Oaks, CA, for Petitioner.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Donald E. DeNicola, Deputy State Solicitor General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Steven E. Mercer, Deputy Attorney General, Louis W. Karlin, Deputy Attorney General, Counsel of Record, Los Angeles, CA, Counsel for Respondent.

Justice ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court.

571 U.S. 294

Our cases firmly establish that police officers may search jointly occupied premises if one of the occupants1 consents. See United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 94 S.Ct. 988, 39 L.Ed.2d 242 (1974). In Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 126 S.Ct. 1515, 164 L.Ed.2d 208 (2006), we recognized a narrow exception to this rule, holding that the consent of one occupant is insufficient when another occupant is present and objects to the search. In this case, we consider whether Randolph applies

134 S.Ct. 1130

if the objecting occupant is absent when another occupant consents. Our opinion in Randolph took great pains to emphasize that its holding was limited to situations in which the objecting occupant is physically present. We therefore refuse to extend Randolph to the very different situation in this case, where consent was provided by an abused woman well after her male partner had been removed from the apartment they shared.

571 U.S. 295

I

A

The events involved in this case occurred in Los Angeles in October 2009. After observing Abel Lopez cash a check, petitioner Walter Fernandez approached Lopez and asked about the neighborhood in which he lived. When Lopez responded that he was from Mexico, Fernandez laughed and told Lopez that he was in territory ruled by the "D.F.S.," i.e., the "Drifters" gang. App. 4–5. Petitioner then pulled out a knife and pointed it at Lopez' chest. Lopez raised his hand in self-defense, and petitioner cut him on the wrist.

Lopez ran from the scene and called 911 for help, but petitioner whistled, and four men emerged from a nearby apartment building and attacked Lopez. After knocking him to the ground, they hit and kicked him and took his cell phone and his wallet, which contained $400 in cash.

A police dispatch reported the incident and mentioned the possibility of gang involvement, and two Los Angeles police officers, Detective Clark and Officer Cirrito, drove to an alley frequented by members of the Drifters. A man who appeared scared walked by the officers and said: " '[T]he guy is in the apartment.' " Id., at 5. The officers then observed a man run through the alley and into the building to which the man was pointing. A minute or two later, the officers heard sounds of screaming and fighting coming from that building.

After backup arrived, the officers knocked on the door of the apartment unit from which the screams had been heard. Roxanne Rojas answered the door. She was holding a baby and appeared to be crying. Her face was red, and she had a large bump on her nose. The officers also saw blood on her shirt and hand from what appeared to be a fresh injury. Rojas told the police that she had been in a fight. Officer Cirrito asked if anyone else was in the apartment, and Rojas said that her 4–year–old son was the only other person present.

571 U.S. 296

After Officer Cirrito asked Rojas to step out of the apartment so that he could conduct a protective sweep, petitioner appeared at the door wearing only boxer shorts. Apparently agitated, petitioner stepped forward and said, " 'You don't have any right to come in here. I know my rights.' " Id., at 6. Suspecting that petitioner had assaulted Rojas, the officers removed him from the apartment and then placed him under arrest. Lopez identified petitioner as his initial attacker, and petitioner was taken to the police station for booking.

Approximately one hour after petitioner's arrest, Detective Clark returned to the apartment and informed Rojas that petitioner had been arrested. Detective Clark requested and received both oral and written consent from Rojas to search the premises.2 In the apartment, the police

134 S.Ct. 1131

found Drifters gang paraphernalia, a butterfly knife, clothing worn by the robbery suspect, and ammunition. Rojas' young son also showed the officers where petitioner had hidden a sawed-off shotgun.

B

Petitioner was charged with robbery, Cal.Penal Code Ann. § 211 (West 2008), infliction of corporal injury on a spouse, cohabitant, or child's parent, § 273.5(a), possession of a firearm by a felon, § 12021(a)(1)(West 2009), possession of a

571 U.S. 297

short-barreled shotgun, § 12020(a)(1), and felony possession of ammunition, § 12316(b)(1).

Before trial, petitioner moved to suppress the evidence found in the apartment, but after a hearing, the court denied the motion. Petitioner then pleaded nolo contendere to the firearms and ammunition charges. On the remaining counts—for robbery and infliction of corporal injury—he went to trial and was found guilty by a jury. The court sentenced him to 14 years of imprisonment.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed. 208 Cal.App.4th 100, 145 Cal.Rptr.3d 51 (2012). Because Randolph did not overturn our prior decisions recognizing that an occupant may give effective consent to search a shared residence, the court agreed with the majority of the federal circuits that an objecting occupant's physical presence is "indispensible to the decision in Randolph ." Id., at 122, 145 Cal.Rptr.3d, at 66.3 And because petitioner was not present when Rojas consented, the court held that petitioner's

571 U.S. 298

suppression motion had been properly denied. Id., at 121, 145 Cal.Rptr.3d, at 65.

The California Supreme Court denied the petition for review, and we granted certiorari. 569 U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2388, 185 L.Ed.2d 1103 (2013).

II

A

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and provides that a warrant may not be issued

134 S.Ct. 1132

without probable cause, but "the text of the Fourth Amendment does not specify when a search warrant must be obtained." Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. ––––, ––––, 131 S.Ct. 1849, 1856, 179 L.Ed.2d 865 (2011). Our cases establish that a warrant is generally required for a search of a home, Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403, 126 S.Ct. 1943, 164 L.Ed.2d 650 (2006), but "the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is 'reasonableness,' " ibid. ; see also Michigan v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 47, 130 S.Ct. 546, 175 L.Ed.2d 410 (2009) (per curiam ). And certain categories of permissible warrantless searches have long been recognized.

Consent searches occupy one of these categories. "Consent searches are part of the standard investigatory techniques of law enforcement agencies" and are "a constitutionally permissible and wholly legitimate aspect of effective police activity." Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 228, 231–232, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 36 L.Ed.2d 854 (1973). It would be unreasonable—indeed, absurd—to require police officers to obtain a warrant when the sole owner or occupant of a house or apartment voluntarily consents to a search. The owner of a home has a right to allow others to enter and examine the premises, and there is no reason why the owner should not be permitted to extend this same privilege to police officers if that is the owner's choice. Where the owner believes that he or she is under suspicion, the owner may want the police to search the premises so that their suspicions are dispelled. This may be particularly important where the owner has a strong interest in the apprehension of the perpetrator of a crime and believes

571 U.S. 299

that the suspicions of the police are deflecting the course of their investigation. An owner may want the police to search even where they lack probable cause, and if a warrant were always required, this could not be done. And even where the police could establish probable cause, requiring a warrant despite the owner's consent would needlessly inconvenience everyone involved—not only the officers and the magistrate but also the occupant of the premises, who would generally either be compelled or would feel a need to stay until the...

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268 practice notes
  • Yang v. Boudreaux, 1:21-cv-00148-BAM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • September 7, 2021
    ...Generally, an officer may conduct a search of a jointly occupied premises if one of the occupants' consents. Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. 292, 294 (2014). However, consent of one occupant is insufficient where another occupant is physically present and objects to the search. Fernandez,......
  • Lange v. California, No. 20-18
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 23, 2021
    ...cannot manufacture an unnecessary pursuit to enable a search of a home rather than to execute an arrest. Cf. Fernandez v. California, 571 U. S. 292, 302 (2014) ("evidence that the police have removed the Page 37potentially objecting tenant from the entrance for the sake of avoiding possible......
  • United States v. Parker, Criminal Action No. ELH-19-0483
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 21, 2021
    ...is reasonableness.'" Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373, 381 (2014) (citation and some quotation marks omitted); see Fernandez v. Calif., 571 U.S. 292, 298 (2014); Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006); Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 411 (1997); Jimeno, 500 U.S. at 250; United ......
  • United States v. Johnson, No. 15-30222
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 14, 2018
    ...omitted) (quoting Whren v. United States , 517 U.S. 806, 812, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996) ); see also Fernandez v. California , 571 U.S. 292, 134 S.Ct. 1126, 1134, 188 L.Ed.2d 25 (2014) (quoting King , 563 U.S. at 464, 131 S.Ct. 1849 ).Consistent with the Supreme Court's instructi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
272 cases
  • Yang v. Boudreaux, 1:21-cv-00148-BAM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • September 7, 2021
    ...Generally, an officer may conduct a search of a jointly occupied premises if one of the occupants' consents. Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. 292, 294 (2014). However, consent of one occupant is insufficient where another occupant is physically present and objects to the search. Fernandez,......
  • Lange v. California, No. 20-18
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 23, 2021
    ...cannot manufacture an unnecessary pursuit to enable a search of a home rather than to execute an arrest. Cf. Fernandez v. California, 571 U. S. 292, 302 (2014) ("evidence that the police have removed the Page 37potentially objecting tenant from the entrance for the sake of avoiding possible......
  • United States v. Parker, Criminal Action No. ELH-19-0483
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • January 21, 2021
    ...is reasonableness.'" Riley v. California, 573 U.S. 373, 381 (2014) (citation and some quotation marks omitted); see Fernandez v. Calif., 571 U.S. 292, 298 (2014); Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006); Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 411 (1997); Jimeno, 500 U.S. at 250; United ......
  • United States v. Johnson, No. 15-30222
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 14, 2018
    ...omitted) (quoting Whren v. United States , 517 U.S. 806, 812, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996) ); see also Fernandez v. California , 571 U.S. 292, 134 S.Ct. 1126, 1134, 188 L.Ed.2d 25 (2014) (quoting King , 563 U.S. at 464, 131 S.Ct. 1849 ).Consistent with the Supreme Court's instructi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • SOCIAL NORMS IN FOURTH AMENDMENT LAW.
    • United States
    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 120 Nbr. 2, November 2021
    • November 1, 2021
    ...has come to play in private communication"). (55.) Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103,111,113-14(2006). (56.) Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. 292,303 (2014) (quoting Randolph, 547 U.S. at (57.) Randolph, 547 U.S. at 111-13. (58.) Id. at 113-14. (59.) The typical Fourth Amendment seizure in......
  • UNDERSTANDING THE PUBLIC'S OPINIONS OF UAV-ASSISTED RESIDENTIAL MONITORING BY POLICE.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 49 Nbr. 4, May 2022
    • May 1, 2022
    ...v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 219 (1973). (44.) See Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 181-82 (1990). (45.) See Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. 292, 302 (2014); see also United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 171 (46.) See, e.g., Alafair S. Burke, Consent Searches and Fourth Amendment. ......

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