03/22/2006

Supreme Court splits in police search case

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON- The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot always search a home when one resident says to come in but another objects, and the court's new leader complained the ruling could hurt investigations of domestic abuse.

Justices, in a 5-3 decision, said that police did not have the authority to enter and search the home of a small town Georgia lawyer even though the man's wife invited them in.

The officers, who did not have a search warrant, found evidence of illegal drugs.

The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches covers a scenario when one home occupant wants to allow a search and another occupant does not.

The ruling by Justice David H. Souter stopped short of fully answering that question _ saying only that in the Georgia case it was clear that Scott Fitz Randolph denied the officers entry.

In his first written dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said that "the end result is a complete lack of practical guidance for the police in the field, let alone for the lower courts."

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