In Spoone v State, 335 Ga. App. 816, 783 SE2d 342 (2016), the Georgia Court of Appeals found that a mother gave consent for police to make a warrantless entry into her house to investigate her adult son who lived in her basement after police followed a liquid trail of leaking automobile fluids to the house after a single-car accident. The Mother testified that she did not consent but the trial court believed the Police Officer who claimed that she did give consent. A warrantless entry into and search of a residence may be authorized by the consent of a person possessing common authority over the premises. Spoone did not challenge his Mother’s authority to allow police to enter the house. The State bears the burden of proving that such consent was voluntary under the totality of the circumstances. Pledger v. State, 257 Ga. App. 794, 797, 572 SE2d 348 (2002).
The problem with this case rests on the unasserted issue of common authority. It is unlikely that the mother had common authority to allow the police to search her adult son’s basement living quarters. See, Pledger, supra. First, he was an adult and not a minor. Second, he probably lived in the basement to maintain some separation and privacy. Otherwise, he would have been living upstairs with his mother. It is important in these situations to always argue the lack of common authority to allow the search.
-Author: George C. Creal, Jr.