Monday, May 20, 2013

Colo. Supreme Court Rules Silence Not the Same as Objection to House Search

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that an express objection must be made in order for one joint occupant of a home to cancel the consent of the other to search the home.  In People v. Fuerst, announced today, the Court held that a husband's silence behind a locked door did not invalidate the consent to search the home given to the police by his wife.  To review, absent a valid search warrant, police may only search a residence if exigent/emergency circumstances require entry or if they receive consent from the residents.  In 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Georgia v. Randolph that if both spouses were present at the time of the request for consent to search their home, the consent had to be unanimous, i.e. if either spouse objected to the search then the consent of the other was not valid.  Since Randolph, Colorado courts have ruled that in order for the objection to be valid it must be made in person, on-scene and at the time of the search.  Now, in Fuerst, the Colorado courts have further clarified that the objection must be clearly expressed; the mere absence of an express objection does not itself constitute an objection to search.  In Fuerst, police responded to a report of protection order violation.  They were met by Fuerst's wife, who consented to admit the police to conduct a search of the premises.  Police found a locked door, behind which was Fuerst, and when he did not respond to their requests, the police unlocked the door and entered, finding Fuerst, a convicted felon, in possession of firearms, which was also a violation of a protection order which he was under.

Under the Constitution, a person's home enjoys highly-protected status from government intrusion.  However, pusuant to the above ruling, any consent that is not immediately withdrawn or objected to will likely be considered valid by the courts.  When confronted with criminal charges, it is important to know your rights and whether or not they have been violated by law enforcement, and only an experienced attorney can provide the assistance needed to understand and defend those rights.

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