Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Case No. 14CA1547
Attorneys for Petitioner: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender
Andrea R. Gammell, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado
Attorneys for Respondent: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General
Rebecca A. Adams, Senior Assistant Attorney General Denver,
It is axiomatic that consent by someone who possesses common
authority over jointly occupied premises generally suffices
to justify a warrantless search.But in Georgia v.
Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006), the Supreme Court carved
out a narrow exception to this rule: Consent by one resident
is insufficient when another resident is physically present
and objects to the search. Id. at 122-23. The Court in
Randolph drew a fine line for the sake of clarity,
practicality, and administrability: If a resident is present
at the threshold of the premises and objects as officers
propose to conduct a search, a co-occupant's consent does
not suffice; however, if the objecting resident does not take
part in the threshold colloquy between the officers and his
co-occupant, he "loses out." Id. at 121.
Adhering to this deliberately formalistic rule, in
Fernandez v. California, 571 U.S. 292 (2014), the
Court declined to apply the Randolph exception where
the defendant was initially present and objected to the
police entering his apartment but neither was present nor
objected approximately an hour later when his co-occupant
consented to a search. Id. at 294-96.
This case is the flip side of the Fernandez coin.
Whereas Fernandez dealt with a defendant who
objected before his co-occupant and officers engaged
in the colloquy regarding consent, we deal here with a
defendant who did not object until after his
co-occupant had already provided officers consent and they
were inside his residence.
We reach the same result the Court did in Fernandez
and conclude that the Randolph exception does not
apply and that the police officers who entered Kirk Thomas
Williams's home did not violate his rights under the
Fourth Amendment. Leonora Williams, Mr. Williams's wife,
provided the officers consent and permitted them to enter so
that they could take possession of drugs and drug
paraphernalia she had found in his travel bag and concealed
in the garage. Although Mr. Williams was physically present
on the premises, he did not object as his wife allowed the
officers inside. His subsequent objection, after the officers
had already entered his home and were in the process of
taking possession of the drugs and paraphernalia, could not
vitiate her previously given consent. Therefore, the officers
were not required to heed his request to leave.
The court of appeals correctly upheld the district
court's ruling denying Mr. Williams's motion to
suppress the evidence collected inside his home. But it did
so for different reasons than those we articulate in this
opinion. Therefore, we affirm its judgment on other grounds.
After Mr. Williams returned home from a trip to North Dakota,
his wife went through his overnight travel bag and discovered
what she believed to be drugs and paraphernalia. She took the
contraband items, placed them inside a soap dish, and hid the
soap dish in the garage of their home. Mrs. Williams later
called the Fort Collins Police Department and met with one of
its officers, Officer Thomas Colvin, at her church. She told
him that she wanted the police to collect the drugs and
paraphernalia she had taken from her husband's travel bag
and stored in the garage. Officer Colvin requested
assistance, and Officers Jesse Reed and Stephan Sparacio
responded. The three officers then accompanied Mrs. Williams
Upon arriving home, Mrs. Williams provided consent and
allowed the officers to enter so they could take possession
of the drugs and paraphernalia. At Mrs. Williams's
request, Officer Reed followed her through the house to the
garage. There, Mrs. Williams retrieved the soap dish she had
stashed away and handed it to him. Meanwhile, Officer Colvin
continued walking down the entrance hallway for about ten
feet, at which point he saw the kitchen, the living room, and
an open space dividing the two. He headed toward the living
room because he saw Mr. Williams there, sitting on a couch,
eating a bowl of cereal, and watching television.
Officer Colvin viewed his job as keeping the peace between
Mr. and Mrs. Williams. Similarly, Officer Sparacio focused on
making sure the situation remained calm and safe. The
officers were concerned because Mr. and Mrs. Williams were
both home and there seemed to be some conflict between them.
When Officer Colvin entered the living room, he advised Mr.
Williams that officers were conducting a "civil
standby" and told him to remain seated. At some point,
Mr. Williams told the officers to leave his home.
Shortly after Officers Colvin and Sparacio contacted Mr.
Williams, Mrs. Williams and Officer Reed returned from the
garage. Officer Reed handed Officer Colvin the soap dish Mrs.
Williams had retrieved. Upon opening it, Officer Colvin
discovered it contained methamphetamine and a glass pipe. The
officers arrested Mr. Williams, removed him from the
residence, and placed him in a patrol car. Officer Colvin
estimated that "within five minutes, things were pretty
Following a pretrial suppression hearing, the district court
issued a written order denying Mr. Williams's request to
exclude the methamphetamine and the pipe from the trial. A
jury subsequently found Mr. Williams guilty of possession of
more than two grams of methamphetamine, a level 4 drug
felony. The district court then sentenced Mr. Williams to one
year in community corrections. Mr. Williams appealed, and a
division of the court of appeals affirmed.
As relevant here, a majority of the division agreed with the
district court's determination that the search that
yielded the methamphetamine and the pipe was not a search
within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment because Mrs.
Williams had a legitimate interest in removing the contraband
from her home, acted on her own initiative and not as an
agent of the state, and the officers' actions did not
exceed the scope of her private search. People v.
Williams, No. 14CA1547, ¶¶ 15-16 (Jan. 5,
2017). The division majority felt it was unclear whether the
exception in Randolph applied because Mr. Williams
asked the officers to leave after they were already
inside the house pursuant to his wife's consent.
Id. at ¶ 17. But since it concluded that the
officers entered the residence with Mrs. Williams's
consent, did not conduct a search inside the house, and the
methamphetamine and the pipe were fruits of Mrs.
Williams's private search and not subject to the
exclusionary rule, it reasoned that it did not have to
resolve the Randolph question. Id. at
¶¶ 17-18. Writing separately, Judge Berger
expressed concern about the soundness of the majority's
analysis but nevertheless concurred in the judgment.
Id. at ¶ 25 (Berger, J., specially concurring).
Mr. Williams then filed a petition for certiorari review, and
we granted the petition in part.
Before us, Mr. Williams advances three contentions: (1) the
division erred in holding that no search implicating the
Fourth Amendment occurred; (2) under Randolph, his
objection was dispositive as to him, regardless of his
wife's consent, and therefore the officers were not
authorized to remain in his residence when he asked them to
leave; and (3) the inevitable discovery exception to the
exclusionary rule does not apply. We decline to address the
first assertion because we conclude that, even if a search
implicating the Fourth Amendment occurred, under
Randolph and Fernandez, the officers were
justified in remaining in the Williams residence after Mr.
Williams asked them to leave. And, because we find that the
officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment, we need not
resolve Mr. Williams's inevitable-discovery assertion
either. Hence, we limit our discussion to the applicability
of the Randolph exception.
Our review of a district court's suppression order
presents "a mixed question of law and fact."
People v. Allen, 2019 CO 88, ¶ 13, 450 P.3d
724, 728 (quoting People v. Threlkel, 2019 CO 18,
¶ 15, 438 P.3d 722, 727). We defer to the district
court's findings of fact "and do not disturb them if
they are supported by competent evidence in the record."
Id. But we review de novo the district court's