Do police officers need the consent of both spouses to conduct a warrantless search of a home? That question is before the Supreme Court tomorrow, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The case stems from a 2001 incident in Americus, Ga., in which police responded to a report of a domestic disturbance. A wife called officers to the couple’s house and said her husband used cocaine. The husband, a lawyer, refused to let police into the home without a warrant. The wife consented and led an officer to a bedroom containing apparent drug paraphernalia and white powder that appeared to be cocaine. Meanwhile, the woman withdrew her consent to the search.
The Georgia Supreme Court declared the search illegal. With more than half of all marriages ending, such a constitutional rule could give rise to increasingly aggressive tactics in divorce cases. It also would make it easier for law-enforcement officials to detect and solve crimes. The Bush administration and 21 state governments have supported Georgia authorities and urged the Supreme Court to overturn the state high court decision. They argue that anyone who lives with someone else does not enjoy a reasonable expectation that a cooccupant will not permit law-enforcement officers to conduct a search of their home. “The state’s proposed rule would be devastating to personal privacy,” writes the Georgia man’s lawyer, Thomas Goldstein of Washington, D.C.