That Your Bag, Ma'am?

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit handed down an interesting divided opinion in a search-and-seizure case in United States v. Purcell. Here's the summary from Judge Karen Moore's majority opinion.

In this case we are asked whether the discovery of men's clothing in a bag that a female claimed to own erases for future bags the apparent authority that justified the officers' warrantless search of the first bag, thereby making a subsequent search illegal. We hold that the discovery of men's clothing eviscerated any apparent authority, but that the officers could have reestablished apparent authority by asking the supposed bag owner to verify her control over the other bags to be searched. Furthermore, we hold that exigent circumstances did not justify the illegal search. Because the officers in the instant case did not reestablish apparent authority and could not justify proceeding with a warrantless search by claiming an exigency, we hold that district court did not err when it suppressed the firearm that officers discovered after any apparent authority dissipated, and we AFFIRM the district court's partial grant of the defendant's motion to suppress.

Judge Gilman joined the majority opinion. Judge Sutton wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.