Justices: Houseguest couldn’t consent to home search

July 8, 2016

The Indiana Supreme Court held Thursday that a houseguest at a home in which police discovered drugs did not have the apparent authority to consent to a search of the house.

Police believed there was drug activity from an Indianapolis home and on one occasion saw Bryant Beatty and Timmie Bradley enter the home. On a later date, police saw Beatty knock on the door of the home and gain entrance. A few minutes later, police knocked on the door and Beatty answered. Police later testified at Bradley’s drug trial that they didn’t know who owned the home. Beatty allowed police in the house, where they did a protective sweep after finding other people inside and discovered drugs and paraphernalia in plain sight.

Bradley, the homeowner, arrived during the search. Police found cocaine and a large amount of cash on him. He was charged with various drug crimes and convicted of Class A felony dealing in cocaine, Class C felony possession of cocaine and a firearm, Class C felony possession of cocaine, and Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Bradley had filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized as a result of the police search of his home without a warrant, but the court only excluded items not found in plain view.

The Court of Appeals vacated all of Bradley’s convictions, except the Class A felony, on double jeopardy and sufficiency grounds. But the court upheld police entry into his home.

The issue in Timmie Bradley v. State of Indiana, 49S05-1602-CR-83, is whether Beatty had apparent authority to consent to police entry into Bradley’s home. The state argued it was reasonable for police to believe Beatty had authority based on his previous visit to the home and that he was the one who answered the door shortly after arriving on that second day.

“To prove apparent authority then, officers needed to prove that they held a reasonable belief that Beatty had authority over the home; that is, Beatty had joint access to or control of the property for most purposes. Thus, mere ‘affiliation’ with the home, without more, is not enough to establish a reasonable belief that the consenting party had authority over the home; nor does merely answering the door to a home indicate authority over that home. There could be a number of situations where someone lacking joint access or control over the property, such as a houseguest or maintenance worker, could answer the door. Beatty’s visit to Bradley’s home on one prior occasion and the fact that he answered the door do not demonstrate to a reasonable person that Beatty had joint access and control over the home,” Justice Steven David wrote.

The justices reversed the denial of Bradley’s motion to suppress and remanded for further proceedings.


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