State v. Vaught
A court can credit the testimony of law enforcement that a defendant freely and voluntarily consented to a warrantless search, after the defendant recovered from being tasered. The court found the following facts, by a preponderance of the evidence. In 2011, a delivery of suspected marijuana took place in Meriden. In the process, law enforcement tasered the defendant, Matthew Vaught. Vaught did not appear to experience long-term negative effects from being tasered, and he did not accept medical care. Law enforcement requested the defendant's permission to search his three-family residence in New Britain. Allegedly, Vaught owned the entire premises and provided verbal and written consent to search the 2nd floor, where his family resided. Vaught's mother-in-law, who resided on the 1st floor of the New Britain property, apparently informed law enforcement that Vaught resided in the basement. The state police contacted the Meriden Police Department and asked the police department to obtain Vaught's consent to search the entire New Britain property. The defendant allegedly consented. Law enforcement allegedly discovered money, a firearm and drug paraphernalia in the basement. Vaught's written consent form was lost. Vaught subsequently denied that law enforcement requested his consent to search the New Britain property. A warrantless search is unreasonable, pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution. The Connecticut Supreme Court narrowly construes exceptions to the Connecticut Constitution's warrant requirement in Article First, §7. Private residences receive the strongest constitutional protection. A defendant's voluntary consent to search his premises may not violate the constitutional prohibition against warrantless searches. The state possesses the burden to prove that a defendant's consent to search was free and voluntary. The Connecticut Superior Court credited the testimony of police that Vaught provided his consent to search the entire New Britain property. The court found that Vaught possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that a warrantless search was merited, because Vaught freely consented. Although he had been tasered, Vaught did not appear to experience long-term negative effects, and his consent was free and voluntary. "[T]he search of the basement," wrote the court, "was within the scope of the consent."