The Iowa Supreme Court recently handed down a decision regarding evidence obtained after a police officer searched a closed backpack. A police officer conducted a warrantless search of the defendant’s backpack. However, a third party, not the defendant, consented to the search of the defendant’s backpack. The defendant’s counsel moved to suppress the evidence found in the backpack itself arguing that the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The officer justified the warrantless search based upon the third party’s consent. A third party may consent to a search authorizing a warrantless search if the third party has apparent authority. Consent by apparent authority allows the government to demonstrate that an officer who conducted a warrantless search was authorized to do so because the officer reasonably, though erroneously, relied on the apparent authority of the person who consented to the search. The Court, however, determined that the third party in the instant case possessed actual authority to consent to a search of the bedroom where the backpack was located, but lacked apparent authority to consent to a search of the backpack itself. Ultimately, the Iowa Supreme Court held the police officer’s warrantless search of the defendant’s backpack violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution because the third party who consented to the search of the bedroom lacked apparent authority to consent to the search of the defendant’s backpack. Thus, the Court reversed both determinations made by the Iowa Court of Appeals and the district court and remanded the case back to district court for a new trial. State v. Jackson, No. 14-0067 (Iowa 2016).
Hall Law Firm