Last week the Fifth Circuit handed down a significant decision on the “private search” doctrine in Fourth Amendment law, United States v. Oliver. Oliver permits warrantless searches under the private search doctrine even when the police who conducted the search didn’t know about the private search. I don’t think the private search doctrine can extend so far, and in this post I hope to explain why I think the decision is wrong. I also want to explain why a different Fourth Amendment rule, the “apparent authority” doctrine, very possibly applies to the facts of this case. The apparent authority doctrine was not litigated in the Oliver case, but it should have been. If I’m right about that, the Oliver decision may have reached a plausible result but did so using a rationale that is quite troubling and likely to cause more problems in the future.
Follow the link for Kerr's analysis on the case; the text of the decision is below.