In re D.C.

Decision Date24 September 2010
Docket NumberNo. A127228.,A127228.
Citation188 Cal.App.4th 978,10 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 12, 473,115 Cal.Rptr.3d 837
PartiesIn re D.C., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. The People, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. D.C., Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

**839 Stephanie Clark, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Martin S. Kaye and Ronald E. Niver, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


*981 Appellant D.C., a minor, was continued as a ward of the court after police found stolen goods in his bedroom during a search of the apartment he shared with his mother and older brother. Police originally went to the apartment to conduct a probation search relating to the older brother, suspecting he might have been involved in local crimes. As they arrived, the officers obtained consent from appellant's mother to search the entire apartment. Appellant objected and attempted to block the officers' entry, but he relented when his mother told him to "get out of the way."

Appellant contends evidence of the stolen goods should have been suppressed because (1) his mother did not have the authority to consent to a search of his bedroom and (2) his objection to the officers' entry to the apartment precluded a consensual search under Georgia v. Randolph (2006) 547 U.S. 103, 126 S.Ct. 1515, 164 L.Ed.2d 208 ( Randolph ). While the arguments appellant raises might have prevailed were he an adult, we conclude his mother, as the parent of a minor child, had the authority to consent to a search of his bedroom and to override any objection he raised to the search of her apartment.


On November 25, 2009, the Alameda County District Attorney filed a wardship petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 602, subdivision (a), alleging appellant, then age 15, had received stolen property (Pen.Code, § 496). The petition also alleged appellant had previously been found to have threatened a witness, in violation of Penal Code section 140.

Officer Morris, a police officer with the Oakland Housing Authority, testified that on October 26, 2009, he and other officers were called to an apartment building on a report of possible narcotics activity. After they arrived, an officer detained appellant's adult brother, suspecting he was *982 involved in the reported activity. In the meantime, a building resident reported to a third officer that his apartment had been burglarized.

Running a check, the officers learned appellant's brother was on probation and the terms of his probation permitted warrantless searches. Officer Morris escorted the brother to the apartment where he lived with appellant and their mother, intending to conduct a probation search. On the way, they met appellant's mother and explained to her they wanted to search the apartment to confirm appellant's brother was not involved in the narcotics activity or the burglary. She consented to the search.1

At the time, appellant was lingering nearby. As the officers approached the apartment door he barred their way, telling them, "You're not going to enter the **840 apartment." When his mother told him to "get out of the way," appellant complied, stepping aside and remaining outside the apartment while the officers entered and began to search. During their search of appellant's bedroom, one of three in the apartment, the officers found some of the items reportedly taken in the burglary. By the time the officers completed their search of his bedroom, appellant was no longer outside the apartment.

The juvenile court denied appellant's motion to suppress the evidence taken from his room and found the allegations of the petition to be true. The court continued appellant as a ward of the court and continued him on probation in the custody of his mother.


Appellant contends the evidence found in his bedroom should have been suppressed because the warrantless search occurred without his consent and over his objection.

A. Legal Background

In reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, we defer to the trial court's factual findings when supported by substantial evidence, but we exercise our independent judgment in determining whether, on the facts so found, the search was lawful. ( People v. Redd (2010) 48 Cal.4th 691, 719, 108 Cal.Rptr.3d 192, 229 P.3d 101.) A warrantless search is presumed to be unreasonable, and the prosecution bears the burden of demonstrating a legal justification for the search. ( People v. Williams (1999) 20 Cal.4th 119, 127, 83 Cal.Rptr.2d 275, 973 P.2d 52.)

*983 Consent has long been recognized as excusing the requirement of a search warrant. "The Fourth Amendment generally prohibits the warrantless entry of a person's home, whether to make an arrest or to search for specific objects. [Citations.] The prohibition does not apply, however, to situations in which voluntary consent has been obtained, either from the individual whose property is searched, [citation], or from a third party who possesses common authority over the premises." ( Illinois v. Rodriguez (1990) 497 U.S. 177, 181, 110 S.Ct. 2793, 111 L.Ed.2d 148; see similarly People v. Panah (2005) 35 Cal.4th 395, 466, 25 Cal.Rptr.3d 672, 107 P.3d 790.) The principles governing consent were established in United States v. Matlock (1974) 415 U.S. 164, 94 S.Ct. 988, 39 L.Ed.2d 242 ( Matlock ), in which the Supreme Court held that consent to a search given by a single resident of a residence occupied by several persons "is valid as against [an] absent, nonconsenting person" so long as the consenting resident "possesses common authority over [the] premises" with the absent resident. ( Id. at p. 170, 94 S.Ct. 988.) "Common authority" was defined in Matlock not as an issue of property law "but [as resting] rather on mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control for most purposes, so that it is reasonable to recognize that any of the co-inhabitants has the right to permit the inspection in his own right and that the others have assumed the risk that one of their number might permit the common area to be searched." ( Id. at p. 171, fn. 7, 94 S.Ct. 988.)

In addition, officers may rely on the consent of a person whom they "reasonably and in good faith believe[ ] ... ha[s] the authority to consent" to a particular search. ( People v. Ledesma (2006) 39 Cal.4th 641, 703, 47 Cal.Rptr.3d 326, 140 P.3d 657.) Such apparent authority to consent exists if " 'the facts available to the officer at the moment ... "warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief" that the **841 consenting party had authority over the premises.' " ( Illinois v. Rodriguez, supra, 497 U.S. at p. 188, 110 S.Ct. 2793.)

B. Appellant's Mother's Consent to the Search of His Bedroom

Appellant argues that, if he were an adult, "there would be no question that his mother's consent would not have permitted" the search of his bedroom, since "[w]here bedrooms within a house have been appropriated for the exclusive use of one of the occupants," other residents cannot give valid consent to a search of the room. He contends the same rule should apply here, since there was no evidence regarding his mother's access to his bedroom.

As appellant argues, it has been held, outside the parent-child context, that adults sharing a residence but maintaining separate bedrooms do not have the apparent authority to consent to the search of one another's bedrooms, at least when officers have no other information about their living arrangements. *984 (See, e.g., Beach v. Superior Court (1970) 11 Cal.App.3d 1032, 1034-1035, 90 Cal.Rptr. 200 [adult sister sharing apartment with adult brothers does not have apparent authority to consent to search of their bedroom]; U.S. v. Almeida-Perez (8th Cir.2008) 549 F.3d 1162, 1172; U.S. v. Barrera-Martinez (N.D.Ill.2003) 274 F.Supp.2d 950, 962 [when adult roommates have separate rooms, exclusive control is presumed].)

California courts, however, have come to a different conclusion when an adult child maintains a bedroom in the home of his or her parents. In People v. Daniels (1971) 16 Cal.App.3d 36, 93 Cal.Rptr. 628, the court held that the search of an adult child's bedroom in his parents' home made with the consent of a parent is reasonable "absent circumstances establishing the son has been given exclusive control over the bedroom." ( Id. at p. 43, 93 Cal.Rptr. 628.) The court reasoned that "[p]arents with whom a son is living, on premises owned by them, do not ipso facto relinquish exclusive control over that portion thereof used by the son. To the contrary, the mere fact the son is permitted to use a particular bedroom, as such, does not confer upon him exclusive control thereof. [Citation.] His occupancy is subservient to the control of his parents. [Citations.] He may be excluded from the premises by them at any time." ( Id. at p. 44, 93 Cal.Rptr. 628.) Similarly, in People v. Oldham (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 1, 96 Cal.Rptr.2d 343, the court followed Daniels in finding valid a father's consent to the search of his adult son's bedroom. The son was a permanent resident in the home, and the father did not regularly enter his son's room ( Oldham, at p. 7, 96 Cal.Rptr.2d 343), but the court held that the father's consent to the search was effective because "there was nothing to show [the son] had exclusive control over the bedroom he used or its contents. At most, the evidence showed there was joint control and Father possessed superior control because he had the right to exclude [the son] from the apartment." ( Id. at p. 10, 96 Cal.Rptr.2d 343; see similarly People v. Egan (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 433, 436, 58 Cal.Rptr. 627.)

When the child is a minor, there is an even stronger case for apparent authority in a parent to consent to the search of the child's bedroom....

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