August 4, 2013
The Merit case of Fernandez v. California is seeking to determine whether the Constitutional rights of Walter Fernandez were violated under the 4th Amendment when law enforcement conducted a search of his residence upon obtaining consent from his girlfriend, who was also a resident, after Fernandez was taken into custody (and had stated his objections to the search while at the scene). In Georgia v. Randolph (2006), in a 5 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court held that when two co-occupants are present and one consents to a search while the other refuses, the search is not constitutional. This paper will provide a statement of the decision, based on current law, research and issues that the writer has determined the Court should make including an analysis of the constitutional principles, Court precedents, facts of the case, and other relevant information. The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as adopted as part of the Bill of Rights was introduced in Congress in 1789 by James Madison and was ratified in 1791. The amendment dealt with legal search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In relation to the case at hand, Sue Davis (2008) notes that “the Fourth Amendment offers us considerably more protection when we are in our home—whether rented or owned—even the home of a friend where we are staying”. The 4th Amendment outlines three encounters between police and citizens as it relates to search and seizure. The third category of encounter between the police and citizens, a full-scale arrest, requires probable cause. When police act without a warrant, they make the probable-cause decision themselves, although a court may subsequently review it. The general rule is that an arrest requires probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the person to be arrested committed it. ‘‘Probable cause’’ refers to the amount of evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the defendant is likely to have committed a crime. As was noted on UPI.com (2013) “In Fernandez vs. California, the court was asked to further define whether police may enter a home without a warrant for a search when the home is occupied by two individuals but consent to search was given by only one of the occupants.” The case stemmed from an October 2009 arrest of gang member Walter Fernandez, who is currently serving a 14-year sentence on firearms, domestic abuse and robbery charges in California, wherein police who were investigating a street robbery responded to sounds of fighting from the apartment he shared with his girlfriend. At the front door, an agitated Fernandez had objected to the search, but his girlfriend eventually assented after Fernandez was taken into custody in which they found a .20-gauge shotgun, ammunition, a butterfly knife and assorted Drifters gang paraphernalia. At trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized in the warrantless search, and the trial court denied the motion. The jury found Fernandez guilty on the robbery charge, and he did not contest the charges for possession of firearms and ammunition. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress. The California Court of Appeal for the Second District affirmed and held that the warrantless search was lawful because a co-tenant consented. As was noted earlier in Georgia v. Randolph (2006) it was held that when two co-occupants are present and one consents to a search while the other refuses, the search is not constitutional. While it was noted that Fernandez objected to the...