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Chapman v. United States


The defendant’s landlord summoned the police after detecting the odor of whiskey mash on the premises. Officers, acting without a warrant but with the consent of the landlord, entered the defendant’s rented house in his absence through an unlocked window. The officers found an unregistered still and a quantity of mash.


Whether the landlord had the authority to grant consent to search the house?


No. The landlord, while owner of the property, may not authorize law enforcement officers to enter the defendant’s home.


Belief, however well founded, that an article sought is concealed in a dwelling is not justification for a search of that place without a warrant, consent or exigency. Such searches are unreasonable even with undeniable facts establishing probable cause. The officers did not obtain a warrant, despite having time to do so. The landlord did not have authority to forcibly enter the property without the defendant’s consent. No exigency was engaged. Therefore, the intrusion was unreasonable and the evidence suppressed.


365 U.S. 610, 81 S. Ct. 776 (1961)

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