Patricia Schultz was convicted for possessing methamphetamine back in 2004. How did the cops know she had methamphetamine? Glad you asked. Because the answer gave the case enough legs to carry it all the way through the Washington State Supreme Court.
Here's how the incident apparently went down: Police were called to investigate a domestic-violence report at Schultz's apartment. When they got there, they heard people "talking loudly." They also heard a man inside--Schultz's roommate, Sam Robertson--say something, but when Schultz answered the door, she said he wasn't home.
That's when the illegal part happened: The cops came inside the apartment.
Schultz and Robertson didn't say they couldn't come in, but they also didn't say they could.
While the officers were interviewing the two, they apparently noticed a marijuana pipe on a table. So later the cops asked for and received a search warrant to go back to the house. When they did that, they found the meth and arrested Schultz for possession of it, a charge she was eventually convicted on.
After her conviction, Schultz's lawyers filed suit, arguing in initial court documents that:
Officer Malone violated Article I, Section 7 when she entered Ms. Schultz's house without a warrant to investigate reports of a couple arguing. Officer Hill further violated the constitution when he entered after both officers had confirmed that no domestic violence had occurred. In addition, the warrant the officers later obtained was tainted by the two illegal entries and was unconstitutionally overbroad. For all these reasons, the evidence must be suppressed and the case dismissed with prejudice.
And sure enough, as the Supreme Court's decision today shows, a person must consent to a warrantless search of their house and not simply fail to object to it.
Justice Tom Chambers writes:
We reject the trial court's and the Court of Appeals' conclusion that
Schultz consented by acquiescence because she failed to object when the police
walked into her apartment . . . The evidence that Schultz possessed illegal drugs was
obtained without authority of law.