State v. Bonilla

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 12-31-2015
  • Case #: S062962
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Brewer, J. for the Court. En Banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

A consent search is justified only if someone who had actual authority gave consent. Fourth Amendment principles of apparent authority are inapplicable because the Fourth Amendment is based on different principles than the underlying principles of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution.

Defendant appealed a conviction of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. At trial, Defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained after Defendant's grandmother gave police permission to search the room they shared and officers located and searched a box containing Defendant's unlawful substances. Defendant argued the search violated Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution because the people who had given permission to the officers to enter the home (the property owner) and the bedroom (Defendant's grandmother) lacked authority to give consent to search the box belonging to Defendant, even though subsequent to the discovery of the box Defendant gave consent to the officers to search the bedroom. The trial court denied Defendant's motion to suppress on the grounds that the officers had obtained lawful consent at every stage of the search. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress because Defendant's grandmother did not have actual authority to consent to the search of Defendant's belongings within the shared room and there was no evidence Defendant had ever authorized or acquiesced in its use by anyone other than herself. On this appeal, the State advanced a revised theory, which the Court exercised its discretion to consider, that the search of Defendant's box was justified under the doctrine of apparent authority as an exception to the requirement of a warrant under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution, a doctrine adopted in Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 US 177, 188-89 (1990). Whether the apparent authority doctrine, which is an exception to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, comports with the Oregon Constitution's warrant requirements under Article I, section 9, was an issue not specifically decided by this Court prior to this case. The Court held that the principles underlying the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches differ from those underlying Article I, section 9, in that the latter protects a privacy interest that may be relinquished only by the person holding the interest, or lawfully on behalf of that person; therefore, the apparent authority doctrine will not operate to justify a consent search where the person consenting did not have actual authority to do so. Decision of the Court of Appeals is affirmed; judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

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