United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
P. WATTERS, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
the Court are United States Magistrate Judge Timothy
Cavan's findings and recommendation filed August 27,
2018. (Doc. 46). Judge Cavan recommends this Court grant
Defendant Richard Dean Miller's motion to suppress
evidence seized from his backpack.
Standard of review
government filed timely objections to the findings and
recommendation. (Doc. 49). The government is entitled to de
novo review of those portions of Judge Cavan's findings
and recommendation to which it properly objects. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).
government does not object to Judge Cavan's factual
findings. The Court adopts the facts found by Judge Cavan in
government objects to Judge Cavan's recommendation that
Carla Saunders did not have actual or apparent authority to
consent to a search of Miller's backpack and that Miller
had not abandoned the backpack.
government raises the additional objection that public safety
excused the warrantless search of Miller's backpack. The
government did not raise this argument to Judge Cavan. The
Court declines to entertain it now.
Saunders did not have actual authority to consent to the
search of Miller's backpack because Miller was a joint
tenant of the room
government argues Saunders had actual authority to consent to
a search of the backpack because Miller was Saunders'
unwanted guest and left his backpack there without her
permission. (Doc. 49 at 8-13). The Court disagrees.
Amendment rights are informed, rather than limited, by
property law. Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 110
(2006). For Fourth Amendment purposes, a person is a joint
tenant when he has "mutual use" and "joint
access or control" of the property. Randolph,
547 U.S. at 110 (quoting United States v. Matlock,
415 U.S. 164, 171 n. 7 (1973)). In Illinois v.
Rodriguez, the Supreme Court considered several factors
in determining whether a person was a joint tenant, such as
whether she lived there, whether she kept her belongings
there, whether she spent nights there, whether she was ever
there alone, whether her name was on the lease, whether she
paid rent, and whether she had a key. 497 U.S. 177,
the room was registered to Saunders, but Miller paid for the
room, had a key, accessed the room freely, kept his backpack
in the room, stayed in the room, and was in the room and the
hotel lobby during both morning and night
hours.(Doc. 46 at 2-6). The fact the room was
registered to Saunders indicates she was a tenant, but it
does not weigh against Miller's own claim of tenancy.
Hotel rooms are generally only registered under one name,
regardless of who actually uses it. When asked whose room it
was, Saunders stated it was registered under her name, but
she did not claim it was solely hers. (Doc. 49 at 6-7). Based
on this record, the Court concludes Miller was a joint tenant
because the facts indicate he was mutually using the room and
had joint access and control.
joint tenant, Miller had a legitimate expectation of privacy
in the hotel room and his backpack within the hotel room.
United States v. Young,573 F.3d 711, 715-716 (9th
Cir. 2009); United States v. Fultz,146 F.3d 1102,
1105 (9th Cir. 1998) (A person "does not forfeit [his]
expectation of privacy merely because the container is
located in a place that is not controlled exclusively by the
container's owner.")- Of course, Miller's
legitimate expectation of privacy in the hotel room is
limited to the extent Saunders has the equally legitimate
right, in Miller's absence and without his objection, to
allow others into the hotel room, including the police.
See generally Randolph, 547 U.S. at 110-120. But
Saunders' right extends only to areas and objects of
common control, use, and authority; it does not extend to
closed containers within the hotel room over which Saunders
has no authority or control. United States v. Karo,468 U.S. 705, 725 (1984) (O'Connor, J., concurring). More
importantly, as a joint tenant rather than Miller's host,
Saunders could not override Miller's expectation of
privacy in his closed containers. Compare United States
v. Patrick,959 F.2d 991, 998 (D.C. Cir. 1991)
(abrogated on other grounds) (Host had actual authority to
consent to search of bedroom used exclusively by guest, where
guest moved into apartment without permission) with
United States v. Welch,4 F.3d 761, 764-765 (9th Cir.