Jun 172009
 June 17, 2009  Court, Youth & Schools

FourthAmendment.com informs us of a court opinion in United States v. Cowart, Eastern District Tennessee that held that a grandson living in a grandparent’s house had no legally cognizable expectation of privacy. From the court opinion:

Cowart had no property interest in the area in which he lived, whether a tenancy or freehold estate. While ownership is not dispositive as to common authority, someone who lives in a house pursuant to the goodwill of family members might expect a lesser degree of privacy–at least in relation to those owners–than a tenant who pays rent. C. Cowart referred to the area as his grandson’s “private domain” and stated that he and his wife rarely disturbed him. Simply because Cowart’s grandparents generally respected his privacy, however, does not necessarily give rise to a tacit understanding that they could not inspect certain rooms of their house without his permission. While Cowart “occasionally” locked the doors to his rooms, the entrance to his bedroom apparently was unlocked on the night of October 22, despite the fact that he had several weapons lying in the open. Additionally, after C. Cowart had checked the gun closet in his second floor office, he apparently had no reservations about walking through his grandson’s room on the way back to the kitchen. This suggests that C. Cowart did not normally have to ask for permission to enter his grandson’s living area and that he had “joint access or control [of this area] for most purposes.” Randolph, 547 U.S. at 110 (quoting Matlock, 415 U.S. at 171 n.7). After considering all the relevant circumstances, the Court finds that C. Cowart had common authority to consent to a search of his grandson’s living quarters.

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