A Narrow Win for Privacy

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Narrow Win for Privacy

Today at the high court:
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the police cannot enter a home and seize evidence without a warrant when one occupant agreed to the search after the other occupant refused permission.

By a 5-3 vote, the high court said the husband's refusal in a case from Georgia was clear, making the search unreasonable and invalid, despite his wife's approval for it.

The narrowly written ruling was a defeat for the state of Georgia and for the U.S. Justice Department, which had argued that the search of a residence should be allowed when one occupant consents, even if the other occupant objects.

The court's three most conservative members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, opposed the ruling. It was the first dissent written by Roberts, who joined the court at the end of September, and Justice David Souter sharply denounced it in writing for the majority. Under the dissent's view, [Souter] wrote, "The centuries of special protection for the privacy of the home are over."

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