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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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