U.S. court adds limit to police searches

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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Supreme Court recently ruled that police cannot search a home when one resident invites them in but another tells them to go away.

The 5–3 decision puts new limits on officers who want to search for evidence of a crime without obtaining a warrant first. If one occupant tells them no, the search is unconstitutional, justices said.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote his first dissent, predicting severe consequences for women who want police to come in but are overruled by abusive husbands.

The decision ended a trend of rulings by the court. About two-thirds of the 30 rulings under the leadership of Roberts have been unanimous, a high number on a court that has in the past been polarized along ideological lines.

The court's liberal members, joined by centrist Anthony M. Kennedy, said that an officer responding to a domestic dispute call did not have the authority to enter and search the home of a small-town Georgia lawyer in 2001 even though the man's wife invited him in.