Hacking Away at the 4th Amendment

Just this February, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered another blow to individuals’ rights under the Fourth Amendment.  In Fernandez v. California, the Supreme Court severely limited a tenant’s right to object to a warrantless search of one’s home.  Most people are familiar with the Fourth Amendment, which provides that people shall be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  Through numerous Supreme Court decisions, the Fourth Amendment has been chipped at and whittled down to its current form which many argue has been swallowed by exceptions.  Of course, the most long-lasting search warrant exception has also been the most obvious – consent.

As recently as 2006 in Georgia v. Randolph, the Supreme Court held that when a tenant’s lack of consent to search a home conflicted with other co-tenants’ consent to a search, the tenant’s right to object and demand a warrant trumped the others’ consent.  As the Supreme Court often does, they created yet another exception.  Under Fernandez, a tenant’s objection to a warrantless search is only valid while he/she is still present.  This opinion is troubling because it effectively provides yet another consent exception to the search warrant exception.  The full text of the opinion can be found at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-7822_he4l.pdf.