United States v. Arreguin

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 11-22-2013
  • Case #: 12-50484
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Goodwin for the Court, Circuit Judges Nelson and Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the apparent authority doctrine, it is not objectively reasonable to believe a houseguest has authority to consent to the search of a house when officers know virtually nothing about the houseguest, the rooms in the residence, or the houseguest’s connection to those rooms.

In August 2008, police officers and DEA agents conducted a “knock and talk” investigation at a Riverside, California home. The primary residents were Omar Arreguin (Arreguin), his wife, and their baby. Their houseguest, Elias Valencia (Valencia), answered the door. While talking to Valencia, officers observed through the open door Arreguin handling a shoebox and disappearing from view multiple times. The officers asked Valencia if they could enter and look around, to which he agreed. The officers preformed a safety sweep of the living room and master bedroom and master bathroom, which was out of sight. Inside the bathroom, officers found the shoebox containing a white powdery substance. The officers then entered the garage which was adjacent and connected to the master bedroom. Looking inside the car window officers discovered cash amounting to $175,990. The trial court denied Arreguin’s motion to suppress the evidence and Arreguin appealed. After the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, the trial court again denied Arreguin’s motion. Arreguin subsequently appealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded holding first that under the apparent authority doctrine, it was not objectively reasonable to believe that Valencia, as a houseguest, had authority to consent to the search of the master bedroom and bathroom because at that moment the officers knew virtually nothing about Valencia, the rooms in the residence, or Valencia’s connection to those rooms. Second, for those same reasons it was also not objectively reasonable to believe Valencia had authority to consent to a search of the garage beyond the bedroom. Finally, the government waived their “protective sweep” exception because they failed to raise it at trial or on first appeal. Also, the “plain view” doctrine did not apply because the entry was not lawful. REVERSED and REMANDED with instructions.

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