Supreme Court Deals Blow to Law Enforcement

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In one of the most important cases of Chief Justice John Roberts' first term, Georgia v. Randolph, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 (Alito not participating) today that police cannot search a home without a warrant when one resident invites them in but another tells them to beat it.

Writing for the majority, Justice Souter expressed concern that permitting police to enter a residence when an occupant objected would deny him his Fourth Amendment rights: "Assuming that both spouses are competent, neither one is a master possessing the power to override the other's constitutional right to deny entry to their castle."

Castle? That's pretty strong language for a justice who ruled last year that the government can forcibly buy your "castle" and sell it to a private interest. Souter was joined by the other three liberals and the increasingly left-leaning Justice Kennedy.

In his first written dissent on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roberts wrote a lengthy diatribe, saying the decision "apparently forbids police from entering to assist with a domestic dispute if the abuser whose behavior prompted the request for police assistance objects."

Justices Scalia and Thomas, both of whom joined Roberts' opinion, also wrote dissents. All of the fun can be read here.

Whether the right call was made or not the decision will have a major impact on how law enforcement officers deal with the public.

More later.