Seven years ago, the Supreme Court rightly ruled that police couldn't conduct a warrantless search of a home shared by two people if one of the residents was present and objected. This week, the justices heard arguments in a case from California that threatens to make that decision a dead letter.
The court should reject the argument that police can get around a resident's objection to a warrantless search by arresting him and then seeking permission from his spouse or roommate.
That's what occurred in 2009 when police tracked a suspect in a robbery to a Los Angeles apartment. A woman who showed signs of having been beaten opened the door, and then Walter Fernandez appeared and objected to a search of the premises, saying, "I know my rights." Concerned about possible domestic violence, police took Fernandez into custody and arrested him on robbery charges. Later they returned to the apartment, where the woman gave them permission to conduct a search. It turned up gang paraphernalia, a knife and a gun.
Fernandez was convicted of robbery and domestic abuse and received a 14-year sentence. But on Wednesday, his lawyer argued that the search of Fernandez's apartment was illegal under Georgia vs. Randolph, the 2006 decision in which the court ruled that police couldn't search a married couple's house for illegal drugs after the husband objected — even though his wife had agreed.
At Wednesday's argument, Justice