Suppose the police come to your office with a search warrant, suspecting you of having committed a crime. During their search, they find something that makes them want to search your home, too. You say no. But they go to your house anyway, where your spouse says yes. Is that a valid search?
No, it's not, according to a federal appeals court ruling today. In a 2-1 decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that once one occupant says no, the others cannot veto that refusal. It extends a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, involving two occupants of a house who argued with police outside about whether they could come in to search. Under this ruling, an occupant can stop a search, no matter how far from the house.
The case involved the search of a Missouri businessman in a drug case. During a search of his office computer, for which they had a warrant, police officers found what they thought was child pornography. So they asked if they could go to his house and search his home computer, for which they did not have a warrant, and he refused.
Even though his wife's consent was voluntary, the court said, "the consent to the seizure of the home computer was not valid because her consent cannot overrule his denial of consent. We believe that the Supreme Court has made it clear that the police must get a warrant when one co-occupant denies consent to search."