United States v. Thomas, 2023 WL 2998355 (7th Cir. 2023)
Investigators suspected Michael Thomas of large-scale drug trafficking. He was also the subject of Indiana state court arrest warrants. Thomas obtained fake identification documents, including one issued by North Carolina under the name “Frieson Dewayne Alredius.” Using that fictitious identity, Thomas leased an Atlanta condominium. Investigators arrested him outside the building.
Thomas’s use of a very creative false name did not deprive him of a legitimate expectation of privacy in the condo.
Thomas’s landlord stated she had rented the unit to “Alredius Frieson.” She consented to a search of the condo, where investigators found drugs, drug paraphernalia and cell phones. Search warrants for the cell phones showed Thomas was trafficking methamphetamine. Thomas asked the trial court to suppress the evidence; when the court denied his motion, he appealed.
The appellate court reversed. A tenant lawfully may exclude others, even when the landlord consents to a search. Thomas’s use of a very creative false name did not deprive him of a legitimate expectation of privacy in the condo. Even if his use of a false name constituted a breach of the rental agreement, it did not automatically deprive him of a legitimate expectation of privacy and give standing to the landlord to allow a search.