Robinson v. State

Decision Date28 April 1978
Docket NumberNo. 2880,2880
Citation578 P.2d 141
PartiesBobbie ROBINSON, Appellant, v. STATE of Alaska, Appellee.
CourtAlaska Supreme Court

Before BOOCHEVER, Chief Justice, and RABINOWITZ and CONNOR, Justices.


Bobbie Robinson was convicted of possession of cocaine, a violation of AS 17.10.010, after a jury trial. Robinson's primary contention in this appeal centers on the denial by the superior court of his motion to suppress evidence obtained as the result of an allegedly unconstitutional search and seizure. 1

On the night of October 22, 1975, the Anchorage Police Department received a call from the manager of the Gold Rush Hotel concerning a registered guest, Bobbie Davis. When they arrived at the hotel, the manager motioned Investigator Jones and Investigator Needham into a room adjoining the room registered to Bobbie Davis. The manager gave them information which aroused their suspicions that there might be some sort of illegal activity occurring in Davis' room. Jones testified at the suppression hearing that after he spoke with the manager, he suspected that the man registered as "Bobbie Davis" was, in fact, Bobbie Robinson, a person with whom Jones was previously acquainted. The police officers decided to conduct a routine investigation of the activities within the room. 2

As Jones stood outside the room registered to Davis preparing to knock, the door opened and a woman started to emerge. When Jones showed her his badge, she slammed the door, bolted and chained it, and began to yell "police." Jones testified that he could hear a great deal of activity in the room. Jones knocked on the door and a second woman, without opening the door, asked who was there. Jones responded that they were police officers and requested that she open the door. The woman, Ms. Chatman, opened the door approximately eight inches. Jones asked to speak with Mr. Davis; Chatman told him that Davis was in the bathroom. When Jones indicated that he would wait, Chatman began to close the door. Jones asked that it be left open and Chatman, who had a small child holding her leg, told the officers that they could come in so that the open door would not create a draft on the child. From their position in the foyer of the hotel room, 3 the officers could see a strainer and a glass jar containing matches and some short straws. The officers suspected that these items were drug paraphernalia.

About 30 seconds after the officers entered the room, Robinson emerged from the bathroom. Jones testified:

Mr. Robinson stepped out and said hello to me. I said hello to him. He said what do you want? And I said, well, I'm here in response to the hotel. Mr. Davis is registered here. You obviously aren't Mr. Davis and we both know that. He laughed and turned around and walked over and sat down in the chair.

Robinson was not wearing a shirt; Jones testified that he could see the top of what looked like a prophylactic protruding from the top of Robinson's belt. After Robinson sat down, Needham picked up the strainer. Robinson jumped up and took the strainer from Needham, saying, "You can't do that." Jones saw the prophylactic which contained 1.4 grams of cocaine on the chair where Robinson had been sitting. Needham picked it up and Jones placed Robinson under arrest.

The United States Supreme Court has recognized that hotel rooms as well as dwellings fall within the protections of the fourth amendment. In Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483, 84 S.Ct. 889, 11 L.Ed.2d 856, rehearing denied, 377 U.S. 940, 84 S.Ct. 1330, 12 L.Ed.2d 303 (1964), the police had focused their investigation on Stoner because of a checkbook found near the scene of a robbery. The checkbook stubs indicated that several checks had been made out to a hotel. Upon discovering that Stoner was registered at the hotel and was out of his room, the police officers requested the night clerk's permission to enter Stoner's room. The clerk gave his consent and opened the door. The officers entered and made a thorough search of the room and its contents, finding evidence incriminating Stoner. The Supreme Court reversed Stoner's conviction, ruling that it had been based on a warrantless search not falling within one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. The Supreme Court emphasized that the night clerk was not able to waive Stoner's constitutional rights despite the clerk's clear and unambiguous consent to the search. The Supreme Court concluded:

No less than a tenant of a house, or the occupant of a room in a boarding house, a guest in a hotel room is entitled to constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. That protection would disappear if it were left to depend upon the unfettered discretion of an employee of the hotel. It follows that this search without a warrant was unlawful. (citations omitted) 4

There is no contention in this case that Robinson did not have an actual and reasonable expectation of privacy in his hotel room. 5 Thus, our analysis of this matter must begin with the premise that this warrantless search is per se unreasonable unless it falls within one of the narrowly defined exceptions to the warrant requirement of the fourth amendment. 6 The state has argued that the consent allegedly given by either Robinson or Chatman validates this search. The superior court found that the state did not adequately establish Ms. Chatman's relationship to Robinson, or to the hotel room, in order to prove a valid third party consent. However, the superior court held that Robinson's failure to object to the presence of the officers constituted consent to the search. More particularly, the superior court stated:

(U)sually the courts do inquire quite searchingly into the power of the person consenting to a search, and had Mr. Robinson not been present I certainly would in this instance had had the observations . . . made inside the premises . . . rested wholly upon the admission into the room by the woman whose relationship has not been clearly established here, I feel that the court would under those circumstances have to suppress the evidence. But Mr. Robinson (was) there, having the opportunity to intercept further entry into the premises . . . .

. . . (The police) were in the foyer . . . And . . . their further continued incursion, as it were, into the rest of the room was accomplished with Mr. Robinson's knowledge and at least implied consent in that he . . . did not ask them to leave, did not ask them to secure a warrant.

First, we will address the issue of the consent purportedly given to the officers by Robinson. The superior court held that Robinson's failure to request that the officers leave when he emerged from the bathroom constituted consent to their entry into the hotel room. In order to show that voluntary consent to search was obtained, the state must show that the consent was unequivocal, specific, intelligently given and uncontaminated by duress or coercion. 7 We have concluded that the burden was not met in this case. 8 The evidence shows that Robinson asked what the officers were doing when he emerged from the bathroom. He objected when Needham picked up the strainer. The only thing he did not do was request that the officers leave. While there are circumstances in which an authorized person's valid consent to police presence could supersede an initial invalid consent given by an unauthorized third party, 9 we are not presented with such circumstances here. Robinson was confronted with the fait accompli of the officers' presence; he did not indicate his consent to their presence in any way except by silence. We have held that consent is not lightly to be inferred. 10 If we were to hold that Robinson's failure to demand that the officers leave amounted to consent, it would mean that consent could be inferred from slight, rather than preponderating, circumstances. Accordingly, we hold that the state did not meet its burden of showing consent to this warrantless search, and the superior court erred in denying the motion to suppress on the ground of Robinson's consent.

We next address the effect of the consent to enter, allegedly given the officers by Ms. Chatman. In United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 171, 94 S.Ct. 988, 993, 39 L.Ed.2d 242, 250 (1974), the United States Supreme Court held that permission to search may be obtained from a third party who possesses "common authority over or other sufficient relationship to the premises or effects sought to be inspected." The Court went on to explain the type of authority which is necessary to validate a third party consent:

Common authority is, of course, not to be implied from the mere property interest a third party has in the property. The authority which justifies the third-party consent . . . rests . . . 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. 11

Id. at n. 7. In Matlock, the trial court held that as a prerequisite to the admissibility of the questioned evidence the prosecution had to prove initially that it reasonably appeared to the searching officers that the third party's consent would bind the defendant, and secondly, that the government must show that facts did exist immediately prior to the search which rendered the third party's consent binding. 12 Concerning the second requirement, the district court found that the government had failed to prove that Mrs. Graff had actual authority to...

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7 cases
  • State v. Barkmeyer
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • June 20, 2008
    ...have required that consent be "unequivocal, specific, intelligently given and uncontaminated by duress or coercion." Robinson v. State, 578 P.2d 141, 144 (Alaska 1978); State v. Brown, 836 S.W.2d 530, 547 (Tenn.1992) (citing Liming v. State, 220 Tenn. 371, 417 S.W.2d 769, 770 (1967)). Conse......
  • United States v. Harvey
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of West Virginia
    • October 25, 2012
    ...485 F.Supp. 481 (D.Minn.1980) (failure to order uninvited officer to leave apartment is not enough to establish consent); Robinson v. State, 578 P.2d 141 (Alaska 1978) (failure to demand that officers leave was not voluntary consent to their entry)). Another strikingly similar case to the c......
  • Turner v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 30, 2000
    ...481, 483 (D.Minn.1980)(failure to order uninvited officer to leave apartment is not enough to establish consent); Robinson v. State, 578 P.2d 141, 144 (Alaska 1978)(failure to demand that officers leave was not voluntary consent to their In State v. Johnson, 177 Wis.2d 224, 501 N.W.2d 876 (......
  • State v. Daniels
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • June 24, 2014
    ...481, 483 (D.Minn.1980) (failure to order uninvited officer to leave apartment is “hardly enough to establish consent”); Robinson v. State, 578 P.2d 141, 144 (Alaska 1978) (where defendant at no time indicated consent to officers' presence except by silence, failure to demand that officers l......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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