Fernandez v. California

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Fernandez v. California
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 13, 2013
Decided February 25, 2014
Full case name Walter Fernandez, Petitioner v. California
Docket nos. 12–7822
Citations 571 U.S. ___ (more)
When a resident who objects to the search of his dwelling is removed for objectively reasonable purposes (such as lawful arrest), the remaining resident may validly consent to search.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Roberts
Associate Justices
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas · Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer · Samuel Alito
Sonia Sotomayor · Elena Kagan
Case opinions
Majority Alito, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer
Concurrence Scalia
Concurrence Thomas
Dissent Ginsburg, joined by Sotomayor, Kagan
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. IV

Fernandez v. California, 134 S. Ct. 1126, was a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case that explored the limits of Georgia v. Randolph, a 2006 case that held that consent to search a dwelling is invalid in the presence of an objecting co-resident.[1] Fernandez, however, held that when the objecting co-resident is removed for objectively reasonable purposes (such as lawful arrest), the remaining resident may validly consent to search.[2]

Case aspects[edit]

Supreme Court Case law precedent[edit]

Fernandez v. California is governed by two cases: The 1974 case United States v. Matlock and the 2005 case Georgia v. Randolph. In Matlock the U.S. Supreme Court laid out the so-called "co-occupant consent rule". This rule means that anyone who has “common authority” over the home can consent to a search of the home.[1] The Supreme Court defined "common authority" as “mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control for most purposes, so that it is reasonable to recognize that any of the co-inhabitants has the right to permit the inspection in his own right and that the others have assumed the risk that one of their number might permit the common area to be searched.”[1] In essence the court decided that any one person who is a “joint occupant” can consent to a police search of the shared residence, without a search warrant.[3] In Georgia v. Randolph the Court limited the holding of Matlock. In Randolph the court decided that when co-occupants who are disagreeing whether to let the police search their dwelling the police can't conduct a search, if a “physically present” co-occupant objects that search.[3]

Case background[edit]

When police arrived at Fernandez's apartment, they believed a suspect in a gang-related assault had just entered. While approaching the apartment they heard screaming and fighting occurring inside. Police knocked on the apartment's door, which was answered by Fernandez's bloodied girlfriend. Believing that Fernandez may have assaulted his girlfriend, police attempted to separate the two. Fernandez refused to follow the police's directive to step away from his girlfriend and yelled “You don’t have a right to come in here. I know my rights.” The officers soon realized that Fernandez was the suspect in the gang-related assault and arrested him for that crime. About an hour later the police came back to ask Fernandez's girlfriend for consent to search the apartment, which she gave. Fernandez later challenged the lawfulness of this third-party consent. Counsel to Fernandez were attorneys Jeff Fischer and Gerald Peters.[1][3]

Supreme Court Decision[edit]

By a vote of six to three, the Court ruled that the search which followed the arrest of defendant Fernandez did not violate the Constitution, because Fernandez was no longer physically there and had been removed for fair reasons. Respect for the girlfriend’s independent voluntary consent requires that it be honored. The three dissenting judges argued that the girlfriend had been pressured into consenting, and that police should have gotten a search warrant once they knew Fernandez objected to the search.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Kerr, Orin (November 6, 2013). "Fernandez v. California and the problem of third-party consent". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  2. ^ Kerr, Orin (February 26, 2014). "Five thoughts on Fernandez v. California". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Little, Rory (February 25, 2014). "Opinion analysis: The Court narrowly limits a precedent allowing co-occupant objections to warrantless consent searches". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 

External links[edit]