© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

A recent Wyoming Supreme Court decision finds that police can enter homes if they believe they have permission

A straight-on shot of a grand three story building, as seen from the street.
Daniel Vorndran
Wikimedia Commons
The Wyoming Supreme Court Building in Cheyenne.

The police are allowed to enter your home as long as they believe they have permission — even if they technically don't. That's according to a new ruling from the Wyoming Supreme Court.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches. That means the police can't enter your home — outside of an emergency — unless they have permission from a court or permission from a member of the household.

But according to the Wyoming Supreme Court, the police do not have to verify that someone is truly a member of the household before acting on their permission.

Two years ago, officers responding to a report of domestic violence entered a Cheyenne apartment and ended up arresting the man who lived there, Darrell Alexander.

The officers were let in by the man's girlfriend, who did not actually live there. The girlfriend had been waiting outside and was not in immediate danger.

Alexander claimed this was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and asked a lower court to throw out the evidence gathered against him during that alleged violation.

That lower court acknowledged that the girlfriend did not have the authority to grant the police access. But it nonetheless ruled that the officers were acting reasonably when they assumed she did.

"The alleged victim called from that location," states the district court ruling. "The officers received the report of a domestic violence call. The alleged victim was at the residence, immediately reported a crime of violence, had come from inside the apartment and freely reentered the apartment. These facts reasonably indicate to the officers responding to a domestic violence call that the alleged victim had authority to allow officers into the residence."

Alexander appealed the decision, but the Wyoming Supreme Court also refused to suppress the evidence and upheld the lower court's rationale.

"The question is whether the facts available to the officers at the time they entered Mr. Alexander's apartment would warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe [the girlfriend] had apparent authority over the apartment and consented to that entry," the ruling states. "If the answer is yes, then the search is valid."

The ruling argues this conclusion is well supported by earlier court rulings both within and outside Wyoming.

Alexander was ultimately convicted of a single possession charge, but the charges related to domestic violence were dropped, according to the supreme court's ruling.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
Related Content