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United States v. Matlock


An officer arrested the defendant in front of the home in which he rented a room and removed him from the immediate area. Several people lived in the home, including Graff. The officers approached Graff, who stated she shared a bedroom with the defendant in the home. The officers obtained Graff’s consent to search the house for money and a gun. The officers found these items in the bedroom shared by Graff and the defendant


Whether Graff had the ability to grant consent to the search?


Yes. If a third party and the defendant have joint authority over the premises, then the third party has the ability to grant consent.


When the prosecution seeks to justify a warrantless search by proof of voluntary consent, it may show that permission was obtained from a third party who possessed common authority over the area or item. Common authority cannot be implied from the mere property interest that a third-party has in the property. The authority that justifies the third-party consent rests on mutual use of the property by persons having joint access or control. Any of the co-inhabitants have the right to permit an inspection and that the others have assumed the risk that any of their co-inhabitants might permit the common area to be searched. But see the limitations imposed by Georgia v. Randolph.


415 U.S. 164, 94 S. Ct. 988 (1974)

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