A common argument from teenagers that mom has no right to search their rooms created a case of first impression for the Indiana Court of Appeals. And the appellate court affirmed with the common response that in mom’s house, mom has access.
Indianapolis teen R.B. was initially picked up by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department for not attending school. But when his mother arrived at the police station, the officers, suspicious that R.B. was responsible for a series of burglaries, asked her if they could search R.B.’s room.
The mother, T.B., consented. At the house, she escorted an officer to R.B.’s room where she pulled open dresser drawers and brought out a small safe. When she lifted the mattress, police discovered three firearms.
R.B. was found to be a delinquent for committing an act of dangerous possession of a firearm, as a Class A misdemeanor when committed by an adult. R.B. appealed, arguing the police violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the adjudication in R.B. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1502-JV-96. The unanimous panel held it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment for an officer to rely on the voluntary consent of a minor’s parent to search the minor’s bedroom inside the parent’s home.
Acknowledging the Fourth Amendment’s protections, the Court of Appeals also noted those protections are subject to certain exceptions. In particular, a warrantless entry and search of a premise is valid when police have the voluntary consent of an occupant who has authority over the house.
The R.B. case falls under that exception to the Constitution’s warrant requirement.
“While R.B. did not consent to the search of the bedroom, his mother, the owner or renter of the house, did,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the court. “There is no serious question that it is reasonable for an officer to rely on the voluntary consent of a minor’s parent to search the minor’s bedroom inside the parent’s home.”