Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Barber: Driver had "apparent authority" over passenger's bag

In U.S. v. Barber, No. 13-14935 (Feb. 3, 2015), the Court held that a police search of a cover where officers discovered a gun in a bag placed in the passenger-side floorboard was valid, because the driver had “apparent authority” to consent to the search. Police stopped a vehicle in which Barber was a passenger. They arrested the driver, Robinson, for driving with a suspended licence. The driver consented to a search of the car. The police found a bag on the passenger-side floorboard, which contained a gun. The Court held that the passenger, Barber, had Fourth Amendment standing to challenge the search of his bag. “Not only was Barber present during the search of Robinson’s car, but the bag was at his feet when the officers stopped the car.” Barber had standing to contest the search of the bag even if he lacked standing to challenge the search of the car. Robinson had apparent authority to consent to the search of the bag. “The bag’s placement on the passenger-side floorboard, within easy reach of Robinson, coupled with Barber’s silence during the search, made it reasonable to believe that Robinson had common authority over the bag.” The Court noted that no one told the officer that the bag did not belong to Robinson.