Georgia v. Randolph

547 U.S. 103 (2006)


Scott Randolph (D) and his wife, Janet, separated in late May 2001, when she left the marital residence and went to stay with her parents in Canada, taking their son and some belongings. She returned to the house with the child, though the record does not reveal whether her object was reconciliation or retrieval of remaining possessions. She complained to the police that after a domestic dispute her husband took their son away, and when officers reached the house, she told them that her husband was a cocaine user whose habit had caused financial troubles. She mentioned the marital problems and said that she and their son had only recently returned after a stay of several weeks with her parents. Shortly afterward, D returned and explained that he had removed the child to a neighbor's house out of concern that his wife might take the boy out of the country again; he denied cocaine use and countered that it was his wife who abused drugs and alcohol. D's wife then volunteered that there were ' 'items of drug evidence' ' in the house. D was asked for permission to search the house. D refused. Janet readily gave consent to search. The officer discovered cocaine. He then left the house to get an evidence bag from his car and to call the district attorney's office, which instructed him to stop the search and apply for a warrant. When the officer returned to the house, Janet withdrew her consent. The police took the straw to the police station, along with D and his wife. After getting a search warrant, they returned to the house and seized further evidence of drug use. D was indicted for possession of cocaine. D moved to suppress the evidence, as products of a warrantless search of his house unauthorized by his wife's consent over his express refusal. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that Janet had common authority to consent to the search. The Court of Appeals of Georgia reversed. The State Supreme Court affirmed: Consent to conduct a warrantless search of a residence given by one occupant is not valid in the face of the refusal of another occupant who is physically present at the scene to permit a warrantless search. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.