Juvenile Search - Consent Given by Mother

by Charles Gillingham

Can mom give consent to search her son's room? Also, what if, similar to Georgia v. Randolph, the son is present and objects?

This update covered Georgia v. Randolph previously. Remember, when consent is given by one tenant, the other tenant can withdraw consent if they are present. The Randolph decision represented a change in the law. Courts are struggling with this issue. One of the areas of disagreement is this-does the decision apply only to residences or does it apply to personal property? Most courts have sensibly held that Randolph is limited to a residence.


An interesting variation on the Randolph theme was addressed in a recent California court of appeal decision In re D.C., 2010 WL 3720164.

Officers were investigating allegations of drug sales in a housing project. In the course of their investigation they arrested a juvenile probationer. The officers happened upon the probationer's mother. The probationer was handcuffed at this point. The mother consented to a search of the apartment. When the officers arrived at the apartment, D.C., a minor, stood in the doorway, told the officers they could not enter the apartment. D.C. only stepped away from the door when his mother told him to get out of the way.


There were three bedrooms in the apartment. One bedroom was used exclusively by D.C. The officers searched D.C.'s room and found stolen property. D.C.'s motion to suppress was denied and his petition was sustained (found guilty).


D. C. appealed on more than one ground. D.C. argued his mother had no right to consent to his room, and even if she did, his objection should have overridden the mother's consent.

The court held that the mother had apparent authority to provide consent to search D.C.'s room as she was the adult cohabitant. There was no evidence that D.C. paid rent and therefore had exclusive dominion over his room. Moreover, D.C. submitted to his mother's authority when she told him to get out of the way of the officers when they wished to enter the residence.

As to the second issue, D.C., as a cohabitant, on scene, can withdraw otherwise valid consent-the court brushed aside this objection as Randolph dealt with two ADULT cohabitants. Here, as D.C. was a juvenile, the court found Randolph did not apply.


Chuck Gillingham is a veteran prosecutor. He is also an instructor for the California District Attorneys' Association and for Santa Clara University School of Law.