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Name: U.S. v. Brown
Case #: 08-30040
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/17/2009

As an exception to the prohibition against warrantless searches under the Fourth Amendment, police may rely on the consent of a co-tenant to search areas of the residence over which the co-tenant has common authority with the suspect and do not also need to obtain the consent of the suspect who is detained in a patrol vehicle. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives received information that Brown, who was the subject of an outstanding warrant, was staying at an identified location and was in possession of firearms. Surveillance was set up on the location and the agents soon saw Brown walking down the street with his co-tenant, Rishel, and arrested Brown on the warrant and placed him in a patrol vehicle to transport him to jail. Meanwhile, Rishel was informed that the agents had information that there were guns in her residence. She adamantly denied that there were any weapons there, stating, “Well, you know what, you can come down and look if you want.” Taking Rishel up on her offer, agents went to the residence and located guns. Distinguishing Georgia v. Randolph (2006) 547 U.S. 103 [occupant’s consent to the warrantless search of a residence is not valid as to a physically present co-occupant who expressly refuses consent], the court here ruled that as long as there is no evidence that the police have removed the suspect in order to avoid a possible objection, the police are not obligated to bring him to the consenting party so he can be a party to the discussion regarding consent. The co-tenant’s consent will suffice to authorize the search. (United States v. Wilburn (7th Cir. 2007) 473 F.3d 742, 744-745.)