STATE v. ROBERT S. BUIE, SC 18887

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

      Criminal; Search and Seizure; Whether the Apparent Authority Doctrine Violates Article First, § 7, of the Connecticut Constitution.  In 2006, the complainant told police that the defendant and his girlfriend, Beverly Martin, broke into her apartment and sexually assaulted her there.  At that time, the defendant lived in an apartment that adjoined the one occupied by the complainant.  On the morning of the alleged assault, the police questioned the defendant and Martin in front of the apartment complex where the defendant and the complainant resided.  Martin stated that she wanted to retrieve some items from her “room,” and she said to the police, “I suppose you guys want to come with me.”  The police went with Martin into the defendant’s apartment and, while there, a detective observed something that he believed was connected to the sexual assault.  In light of the detective’s observation, the police obtained a search warrant and seized several items from the apartment.  Thereafter, the defendant was charged with various sexual offenses.  At trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized from his apartment, arguing that the police lacked the authority to enter into the apartment based on Martin’s consent because Martin did not live there.  The trial court denied the motion pursuant to the apparent authority doctrine, which provides that a warrantless entry by the police is valid when it is based on the consent of a third party if the police reasonably, albeit mistakenly, believed that the third party possessed common authority over the premises.  After the defendant was found guilty as charged, he appealed, claiming that the apparent authority doctrine violates article first, § 7, of the Connecticut constitution.  The Appellate Court (129 Conn. App. 777) disagreed, noting first that the United States Supreme Court has adopted the apparent authority doctrine as an exception to the warrant requirement of the fourth amendment to the federal constitution.  It also found that article first, § 7, like the fourth amendment, only protects against unreasonable searches and does not provide a more general right to privacy.  The court therefore opined that the apparent authority doctrine is consistent with the language of article first, § 7, because it permits the police to enter and search a residence only when they reasonably believe that they have been given consent to do so.  The court further stressed that because article first, § 7, is based upon the fourth amendment and was adopted to address the same concerns over privacy, a practice that is permitted under the fourth amendment will in most cases be permissible under article first, § 7.  It also determined that although no Connecticut court has expressly adopted the doctrine under the state constitution, the Appellate Court has applied the doctrine in a case that involved a factual situation very similar to the one presented here.  The court further emphasized that a slight majority of state courts have adopted the apparent authority doctrine and that several of the states that have rejected the doctrine have enacted constitutions that are unlike the Connecticut constitution in that they provide for a broad right of privacy.  In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the apparent authority doctrine violates article first, § 7.