United States v. Stanley

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-02-2011
  • Case #: 10-50206
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Trott for the Court; Circuit Judge Rymer; dissent by Circuit Judge Beezer
  • Full Text Opinion

Consent to search a computer by an individual thought to be a co-owner will survive Fourth Amendment scrutiny when the searching officer believed, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the consenting individual had authority.

Kevin Stanley (Stanley) plead guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. He reserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress the material found on his computer. The consent was given by now fiancée, Tina Stockbridge (Stockbridge) who has since stated she does not remember whether she gave consent. The district court held that Stanley had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the computer for the two years it was in Stockbridge’s possession and that she was a co-owner of the computer and therefore had authority to give consent. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court’s holding that Stanley did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the computer because Stockbridge was a co-owner. Further, in turning over possession to Stockbridge, he assumed the risk she would allow someone else to look at its contents. The Court also held that even if Stockbridge was not a co-owner, the doctrine of apparent authority would render the search reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Under the totality of the circumstances, the facts and circumstances know to the officer at the time of the search were sufficient for the officer to infer that Stockbridge had authority to consent. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search