Supremes Say: You'd Better Stay Home

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SCOTUSBlog has a good, thorough post on today's ruling in Georgia v. Randolph [PDF], in which the Supreme Court held that one person may block a (warrantless) search of a shared dwelling, even if the other resident consents—but only if the person who objects is there at the door. That is, one supposes, an improvement over the previous standard, which was that one person's consent was enough even when the other resident objected, but it does seem to make citizens' "reasonable expectation of privacy" depend in a fairly arbitrary way on whether they happen to be around (and, for that matter, awake and at the door) when the cops come knocking. Oddly, the dissent by Chief Justice Roberts notes this problematic arbitrariness, but instead of concluding that consent should be actively sought from the actual target of the search rather than a roommate, suggests that cohabiting automatically cedes to the roommate discretion over where your "reasonable expectation of privacy" ends, even in the face of active objections. But then, given Roberts' record of finding an excuse for a search whenever possible, that shouldn't come as much surprise.

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  1. I haven’t read the decision, etc., but Julian is right when he implies that this is an attempt to get the majority around a previous standard that has proven to be quite damaging to our general concept what is a proper search.

  2. Of course, after my perusal of the various garbage-related cases of the SCOTUS and the Circuits, I came to the conclusion that almost any search related to a “drug crime” is kosher to the federal courts.

  3. Hak,
    Sadly you are correct. When the courts try to save us from ourselves, we all loose. Next stop, mandatory seatbelt laws for drivers and anti-toy laws for sexual perverts.

    Oh wait, nevermind.

  4. Hak/Kwix – but I didn’t think the constitution made any mention of the war on drugs or how bad drugs are. How can they consistently rule that somehow drugs are enough of a scourge that our liberties should be sacrificed to eradicate them?

    Oh wait, nevermind. 😉

  5. Thomas’s 4 page dissent at the end is rather interesting. He said that since the woman told the cops her husband was using coke, and then took the cop up to the husbands room and showed them a straw with coke on it that it wasn’t a “general search”.

    Not quite sure what to make of this case.

  6. WARNING: TOTALLY OFF TOPIC:

    Oh no! The RPG just showed up on my screen again, this time on the soccer scores page over at foxsports.com — now she’s pitching the “True” (with the U underlined) dating service. Still in her red bikini, with heart shaped pillow and all. Reason, you’ve been two-timed! Oh, the shame!

  7. …cohabiting automatically cedes to the roommate discretion over where your “reasonable expectation of privacy” ends…

    What if the cohabitating people are actually in a homosexual relationship?

  8. worm – I saw RPG pimping the same ad when I logged off Myspace a while ago. I was thinking about telling everyone how that little hussy cheated on us, but I figured it wasn’t worth it. 🙂

  9. Hey, a girl like me gets around. I have to keep my options open.

  10. The wife says, “My husband uses coke,” and this isn’t probable cause? WTF?

    She even led them straight to the drugs? How can this not be allowable? Sure, the defense can argue it was planted by a hostile spouse, but isn’t that the jury’s job to sort out?

  11. That’s ok, RPG, I do too.

  12. Yet another totally off topic post

    Julian, did you get my email?

  13. A good reason for not having roommates.

  14. I was thinking about telling everyone how that little hussy cheated on us, but I figured it wasn’t worth it. 🙂

    Well, I had the same thought, but when I saw the Flying Spaghetti Monster post, I thought “what, exactly, does constitute a waste of time around here?”

    Anyway, at least the carpet-humper’s still committed to the cause.

    sweet home, reason dot com
    where the headlines are so blue
    (and the carpet humper’s true)

  15. The wife says, “My husband uses coke,” and this isn’t probable cause? WTF?

    She even led them straight to the drugs? How can this not be allowable? Sure, the defense can argue it was planted by a hostile spouse, but isn’t that the jury’s job to sort out?

    Well, they were in the middle of a domestic dispute, so perhaps the wife wasn’t the most reliable witness. Second, she led them straight to the drugs inside the house i.e., they were searching before they found the drugs. Now if she had brought them the drugs, that would be another matter.

    Just because someone accuses you of a (victimless) crime does not mean the police have probable cause to conduct a search.

    Finally, the judges were given a clear choice – a rule that gives the benefit of the doubt to enhanced protection of privacy, and a rule that gives the benefit of the doubt to the police. They made the right decision this time, but we can all guess how ScAlito would have voted, so the close cases won’t always fall the right way.

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