Monday, June 02, 2014

Step-parent of Adult Child Validly Consented to Search of Child's Bedroom

U.S. v. Romero, 2014 WL 1424529 (4/15/14) (N.M.) (Published) - The presumption that when a child lives with a parent the parent has control for most purposes over the home, including the child's bedroom, applies in the step-parent/step-child situation, even where the child is an adult. Although a step-parent/ step-child relationship might be less loving, it might be more so and the 10th was "not about to insist on an examination of the extent of ties of affection." Helpfully for future defendants, the 10th says if the agents had known the stepfather who granted permission to search the house never entered Mr. Romero's bedroom and that there was a lock on the bedroom door, they might not have been justified in relying on the stepfather's consent. Here the agents claimed not to know either fact, and they had no obligation to investigate those matters. They could just rely on the parent-child presumption. Judge Browning helped out the government below by coming up with the apparent authority argument the government had not raised. That was good enough to preserve that argument for appeal.
There was probable cause to obtain a warrant to search a car for evidence of a murder where: the victim's body was found in an arroyo two miles from where the victim's friend had last seen him 16 hours before in a car with Mr. Romero and others; the victim was shot at close range with a shotgun and the friend had seen a "long rifle-type gun" in the car; Mr. Romero had been stopped months earlier with a shotgun in his car; and the license plate number was not in doubt because the men had been seen in the car on video. The 10th opined: "The Fourth Amendment does not require the abandonment of common sense."