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Name: U.S. v. Arreguin
Case #: 12-50484
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/22/2013

It was not objectively reasonable for DEA agents to conclude that a houseguest had authority to consent to a search of a home when they knew virtually nothing about the houseguest or his connection to the areas searched. DEA agents went to a home where three primary residents and a houseguest were present, intending to conduct a “knock and talk” investigation. The agents did not “know exactly who resided” in the home. The houseguest answered the door and responded, “yes,” when an agent asked if they could come in and look around. Following the entry, agents performed a “cursory safety sweep,” and drugs were found. Agents then went into the garage, looked inside a car, and discovered multiple bundles of cash. Appellant, one of the primary residents, entered a conditional guilty plea after his motion to suppress the evidence was denied. Reversed. In justifying the search, the government mainly relied on the apparent authority of the houseguest to give consent to the agents’ search, which is an exception to the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. The doctrine provides that a search is valid if the officers conducting the search reasonably believed that the person from whom they obtained consent had the actual authority to give it. The government has the burden of establishing apparent authority to consent to each specific area searched. A mere invitation to enter alone is not adequate for apparent-authority purposes. Here, when the agents obtained consent from the houseguest to “look around,” they knew nothing about him or his connection to the home. With this dearth of information, a reasonable person would not presume without further inquiry that the houseguest had any authority to consent to a search of the home. Further, the circumstances indicated that appellant had access to and control over the areas searched, not the houseguest.