Police Search Home Without Consent of a Third Party In Pennsylvania

In Commonwealth v. Hughes, 575 Pa. 447, 836 A.2d 893 (2003), the Supreme Court determined that the "apparent authority exception" to the Fourth Amendment's requirement that the police have consent to enter a premises was also consistent with Article I, Section 8. The Superior Court had affirmed the trial court's denial of a suppression motion in which the defendant alleged that the police officers had invalid third party consent to search his residence. The Court found that apparent authority existed for purposes of the Fourth Amendment; based on the totality of the circumstances, the police officers had reason to believe teenage girls standing on the porch of the appellant's parole residence had valid authority to allow them to enter the premises. The Court then conducted an independent analysis of the Pennsylvania Constitution, using the four Edmunds factors, "to determine whether Article I, Section 8, affords Appellant more protection than its federal counterpart." Hughes, 575 Pa. at 461, 836 A.2d at 901. In determining that Article I, Section 8, did not afford more protection with regard to "consent to enter a premises," the Court analyzed Pennsylvania case law and stated: The adoption of the "good faith exception" in Edmunds would have been inconsistent with the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, and with the heightened expectation of privacy that the Constitution affords our citizens. Unlike Edmunds, there are no cases or rules suggesting that there is a distinction between the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions with regard to consent to enter a premises. Rather, this Court has interpreted consent to enter a premises consistent with the interpretation of the United States Supreme Court. Id., 575 Pa. at 463-64, 836 A.2d at 902-03. The Court also noted that it had been persuaded by the majority of state courts that adopted the reasoning of the U.S. Supreme Court and determined that apparent authority alone is sufficient. It further explained: While we recognize that Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution affords our citizens greater protections than the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, we do not believe that requiring apparent authority alone is inconsistent with our Constitution. Article I, Section 8 provides that people must be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Because the officers' belief that they obtained consent from a third party who had common authority over a premises must be reasonable for the "apparent authority exception" to apply, police officers should not be required to obtain a search warrant based upon probable cause where they have apparent authority to conduct a search. A person's privacy rights are no more violated when a third party with actual authority to consent permits police officers to enter a residence than when a person at the house with apparent authority consents to the entry of the police officers into the premises. Id. at 466, 836 A.2d at 904.