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Top Court Revisits 4th Amendment

Supreme Court will decide if a roommate can give permission for an entire apartment to be searched by police. Danielle Leigh reports.
(NBC News) A case argued before the Supreme Court today could make it easier for police to search your home without first getting a warrant.

In the past, the court has ruled that police can't conduct a warrant-less search of a home if any tenant present at the time of their request objects.

Now the question today, is what happens after that person objecting is removed from the house.

Attorneys for a convicted felon in Los Angeles argue Walter Fernandez's fourth amendment rights were violated when police searched his home, without a warrant despite his refusal to let them in.

After police arrested Fernandez, and took him away they then got permission to enter from a woman he was living with.

"The concern is people will no longer be able to keep police out of their dwellings if they live with others as almost all American citizens do that your fourth amendment rights are held hostage by your roommates," said Fernandez attorney Jeffrey Fisher.

Several justices responded that those roommates have rights too and worried about the impact in circumstances of domestic violence.

Justice Samuel Alito said "i can invite in whoever i want to, that's a right."

Attorneys for the state of California wouldn't speak on camera.

But in court, they followed some of the justice's reasoning arguing the woman Fernandez lived with had a right to invite police inside.

Justice Stephen Breyer suggested Fernandez's objection should stand, at least for a "reasonable amount of time..."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor drew a harder line and said "how about a clear answer, get a warrant."

Now justices will have to decide exactly how far a person's right to privacy extends.

Dependent on which way the justices go this case will make it either easier or harder for police to search a person's home and that could significantly impact the outcomes of future investigations.
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