New Case on Consent Searches When Tenants’ Wishes Conflict, and When a Suspect is “Present” to Object


When two co-tenants are present at a residence, one of whom consents and the other objects to police officers entering and searching their residence, the objecting co-tenant’s objection takes precedence.  

To be “present,” the objecting co-tenant must be at least within the “immediate vicinity” of the residence. Being within visual (“line-of-sight”) and auditory reach of the residence counts as being within the immediate vicinity. A suspect’s oral admissions will not be suppressed as the product of an illegal search if the suspect was unaware of any evidence that was seized during that search. 


Brett Wayne Parkins (aka: the “laser pointer guy,” to his neighbors), living in a Huntington Beach apartment complex, liked to amuse himself by pointing a laser light at helicopters and other aircraft flying overhead. Over the six months leading up to June 25, 2021, a number police helicopter and commercial aircraft pilots from nearby airports had complained of laser strikes on their aircraft. On the night of June 25, Huntington Beach Police Department Officers Garwood and Vella, flying a HBPD helicopter, were struck by a bright green laser. Turning their highly sophisticated thermal imaging camera toward an apartment complex below — they recalled having been struck by green lasers from this area on previous flights — the officers attempted to locate the source. When a second laser shined upon their helicopter, the thermal camera captured the image of a man with a stocky build and a large stomach, wearing shorts and a hat, walking from the area of the laser source into a nearby apartment breezeway where he disappeared. When hit by a third laser strike, the same form appeared. The officers were able to follow his movements for several minutes, ending on a second-floor balcony attached to a specific apartment. Believing this man to be responsible for the laser attacks, Officer Garwood obtained the assistance of patrol officers on the ground.  

As guided by Officer Garwood, two patrol officers arrived at the apartment complex and spotted Parkins standing on a second-floor apartment balcony. At the front door of that apartment, the officers contacted a woman — soon determined to be Parkins’ girlfriend — when she answered the door. She claimed that Parkins was not home, until  officers told her they had just seen him on the balcony. When told they needed to speak with him about shining a laser at the police helicopter, she disappeared into the apartment to get him. Parkins eventually came to the door and stepped outside with the officers. He then attempted to retreat back into his apartment when the officers tried to pat him down for weapons. Parkins asked if he was under arrest and the officers told him he was not, but that they were going to escort him downstairs for a “chat.”  

The officers took him to a nearby bench, and a third officer arrived. When questioned about the laser incident, Parkins denied owning or using a laser pointer, repeatedly asking to be allowed to return to his apartment, or to at least see his girlfriend. Eventually, at his request, the officers moved him to a set of mailboxes bordering a parking lot where he would be less exposed to gawking neighbors. At this point, he was one flight of stairs and one short walkway, about 20 feet, from the entrance to his unit. It was noted, however, that he was within hearing distance and “line of sight” of his apartment.  

Two officers remained with Parkins as the third returned to the apartment to ask the girlfriend for permission to come in and search for a laser pointer. She agreed. As the girlfriend was executing the form, Parkins yelled up at her: “Don’t let the cops in and don’t talk to them.” It was undisputed that she could hear him. A minute later, he yelled up at her again: “Don’t talk to them, talk to them outside,” followed by “Don't tell them anything.” Parkins was handcuffed, removed from the mailbox area and placed in a squad car because, as noted by one of the officers, he was “running [his] mouth” and “obstruct[ing] the investigation.”  

To this point, before being put into the patrol car, Parkins had been detained outside for roughly 20 minutes. The resulting search turned up a laser pointer with the name “Brett” conveniently etched on it. Without being told that they’d found his laser pointer, Parkins was transported to the police department, where the helicopter crew took over. After waiving his Miranda rights, Parkins continued to deny owning a laser pointer, still not knowing that his personally monogramed laser pointer had been found in his apartment. He eventually admitted to having one, but continued to deny pointing it at the officers’ helicopter.  

A federal grand jury indicted Parkins for one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, in violation of ; a five-year federal felony offense.  Defendant’s motions to suppress the laser pointer itself and his resulting admission that he owned a laser pointer were both denied.  He thereafter pled guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Defendant appealed.18 U.S.C. § 39A, a five-year federal felony offense. Parkins’ motions to suppress the laser pointer and his admission that he owned one were both denied. He thereafter pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. He appealed.