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Court: Girlfriend could consent to search

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a defendant's conviction of possession of ammunition by a felon, finding the defendant's girlfriend had the authority to consent to a search of the apartment by police when the defendant was not present.

In United States of America v. Daniel Groves Sr., No. 07-1217, the Circuit Court had to determine whether Daniel Groves' girlfriend, Shaunta Foster, could allow police to search their apartment without a warrant in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006).

When Foster consented to the search of the apartment she shared with Groves in 2004, the Randolph case had not yet been ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court. That ruling came after Groves' case went before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals during Groves' first appeal of his conviction.

In this case, police responded to a call of shots fired in South Bend near Groves' apartment, and Groves admitted he lived at the residence where the shots were reported to have been fired. Groves refused the officers' request to search his apartment, and a federal magistrate denied the officers a search warrant. Police decided to go to his apartment when Groves was at work and talk to his girlfriend to see if she would let them in. Foster signed a consent form, and the agents found bullets in a drawer in Groves' nightstand. Groves moved to suppress the evidence found during the search, which was denied. In Groves' first appeal of this issue, the 7th Circuit directed the District Court to address three issues in the appeal: whether Foster had apparent or actual authority to consent to the search of the apartment, whether the Randolph ruling affected the suppression claim, and whether Foster voluntarily consented to the search.

On remand, the District Court issued its finding based on the Circuit Court's order and again denied Groves' motion to suppress. The federal appellate court affirmed the District Court ruling, finding evidence supports that Foster could consent to the search of the apartment. The District Court determined Foster was a co-occupant of the apartment and possessed common authority over it to allow for a search, including a search of the nightstand where the evidence was found. Foster told police there were no limits to where she could go in the apartment and said she had cleaned the nightstand even though she didn't use it, wrote Judge Illana Rovner.

Police didn't violate the standard held in Randolph - that "a warrantless search of a shared dwelling for evidence over the express refusal of consent by a physically present resident cannot be justified as reasonable as to him on the basis of consent given to police by another resident." The District Court found the police officers didn't do anything to cause Groves' absence from the apartment because they waited until he was at work to approach Foster. Groves also didn't object at the door, as is required in Randolph, and the facts in his case don't justify relief under Randolph, she wrote.

The District Court found Foster voluntarily consented to the search, saying she was of at least average intelligence, the officers didn't threaten her in order to convince her to allow the search, and the police advised her fully of her rights - including her right to insist on a search warrant, Judge Rovner wrote.
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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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