ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that when a parent consents to a police search of his or her home, police may search any personal belongings left in common areas by a minor child, even if the child objects.
By a 5-2 margin, the court ruled against a Frederick youth, Tariq Y., who was arrested in May 1995 at age 16 after police found a small bag of marijuana in his vest pocket.
Tariq’s vest, which he had left in the dining room, was searched over his objections after his mother permitted police to search the house. His attorney had argued that his Fourth Amendment rights, which guard against unreasonable search and seizure, had been violated.
Judge Robert L. Karwacki wrote that “when [Tariq] left his vest in the dining room … he assumed the risk that his mother, who had authority in her own right to consent to a search of the vest left in a common area of the house, would herself look into his vest pockets, or expose his vest to a search by others.”
Gary Bair, chief of the Criminal Appeals Division of the Office of the Attorney General, said that he expects the decision to set a precedent in Maryland for the search of juveniles’ personal effects in “common areas” of the house.
Assistant Public Defender Claudia A. Cortese said that the Appellate Division of the Office of the Public Defender would meet to discuss whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
“When you work very, very hard on a case, you’re disappointed in the outcome” when losing, Cortese said.
In a dissent, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and Judge John C. Eldridge said Tariq’s objection to having his jacket searched should have set off a “warning light.”
“Tariq’s protest gave rise to an ambiguous situation which the officers were in an excellent position to resolve with little or no burden,” Eldridge wrote. “They needed simply to turn to Tariq’s mother and confirm that they did, indeed, have permission to proceed with the search of the vest.”
In May of 1995, police responded to a “911 hang-up call,” entered the house, and found it in a state of disorder and smelling of marijuana. After Tariq’s mother gave permission to search the house, an officer examined the boy’s jacket, despite Tariq’s protest. Tariq punched and kicked both officers as he was being arrested. Tariq was found involved in the possession of marijuana and resisting arrest in October 1995, was committed to the O’Farrell Youth Center, and filed an appeal. In July 1996 the Court of Special Appeals ruled against Tariq. -30-