St. Mary's Law Journal


In Illinois v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a warrantless search is valid when police rely on consent of a third party whom they reasonably believe had common authority over an area but does not. A reasonable belief that a third party had authority to consent to a search is an exception to the warrant requirement. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people and their possessions by prohibiting unreasonable searches by government authorities. Although this protection extends to any place where a person may claim a reasonable expectation of privacy, it especially protects the right of the people to privacy in their homes. The Fourth Amendment also prevents unreasonable police conduct by requiring searches be conducted pursuant to a warrant issued based upon probable cause.

By allowing police to justify searches pursuant to a reasonable belief in a consenting party’s authority, the Rodriguez majority expanded the consent exception to the warrant requirement. It created a new good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. These modifications to Fourth Amendment jurisprudence give police officers greater latitude in conducting warrantless searches. By giving police more discretion, the Court has placed a premium on police ignorance. The less police know about the authority of the consenting party, the more likely their belief will be considered reasonable, and the more likely their search will be held valid. In addition, the Court overlooks the intent of the Fourth Amendment’s authors to restrict the government’s power to impinge upon the citizens’ right of privacy. In so doing, the Court has significantly diminished the Fourth Amendment’s power to protect individual privacy.


St. Mary's University School of Law