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Court affirms 86-year-old uncle could consent to search

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a defendant’s argument that his elderly uncle was a confused old man who was out of touch with reality and, therefore, unable to consent to a search of his home when police showed up looking to serve an arrest warrant. The search led to the arrest of the grandson on drug and weapons charges.

Timothy Richards appealed the denial of his two motions to suppress evidence found by police in the home of his uncle, Edward Rawls. Fort Wayne Police officers went to Rawls’ home because they had information a person they were seeking to arrest frequented the home. Rawls, the homeowner, allowed the officers inside and gave them permission to look around. Paul Wilson, a person the police sought, was not one of the people in the home, but Richards was there. Officers saw him with drugs. When they handcuffed Richards, they found a handgun and knife on him.

The officers did not have a search warrant for Rawls’ home, but Rawls consented to a search of the bedroom where Richards stayed when he visited his uncle. It had a lock on it but was unlocked at the time. Inside, the officers found more drugs. Richards was convicted of four charges related to the search.

In United States of America v. Timothy L. Richards, 12-3763, Richards argued that his uncle’s age prevented him from consenting to the search because he was an “old man out of touch with reality.”

“In Richards’ case, there is no evidence that Rawls suffered from a diagnosed mental disability or that officers had any reason to believe that he could not consent to the search of his home. Three officers testified about their interactions with Rawls; each concluded that Rawls appeared to understand his rights and be free of mental defects,” Judge William Bauer wrote. “Officer Ealing was specially trained to recognize symptoms of mental illness, and he testified that Rawls appeared to have ‘all his mental faculties about him.’ Without evidence of aberrant behavior from Rawls on December 8, 2009, we conclude that the district court’s finding that Rawls was capable of voluntarily consenting to the officers’ search was not clearly erroneous.

“Richards also contends that Rawls could not voluntarily consent to the search on December 8, 2009, because he was too intoxicated. But the record lacks any evidence to support this contention.”

The judges also held that Rawls’ authority to consent to the search of his house was sufficient to allow the officers’ warrantless search of the bedroom where Richards stayed. It was reasonable for the officers to believe it was Rawls who placed the padlock on the door, not Richards.
 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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