House expected to override Sanford's veto of warrantless search law

A vote is expected this week in the S.C. House of Representatives to override Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of a bill allowing law-enforcement officers to search those on probation or parole without a warrant.

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, was among 36 other senators who voted Thursday to override Sanford's March 31 veto of the Senate bill.

"I ... believe the liberty of a criminal can and should be subjected to reasonable conditions when such (conditions) keep our citizens safer," Davis said. "Protecting law-abiding people by taking away freedoms from a convicted criminal is not only constitutional, it is good public policy."

The bill would allow officers to search people on probation or parole, as well as their vehicles and any possessions, without a search warrant. Inmates would be required to consent to the searches before they're released or serve their full sentence in prison, according to the legislation.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said he supported the bill, calling it "very fair."

"If someone gets an opportunity to be on probation or parole, they're still technically property of the state," Tanner said. "They're allowed to be out on probation or parole in lieu of staying in prison, where they are subject to warrantless searches on a routine basis."

In his veto message to the legislature, Sanford said allowing warrantless searches of parolees and those on probation encroached on vital civil liberties and likely wouldn't deter repeat offenses or reduce crime.

"... Other states that have adopted similar measures saw no material change in recidivism or decreases in crime," Sanford wrote. "If there had been overwhelming results on this front, we would have supported the bill."

Sanford was joined in his opposition to the bill by Victoria Middleton, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"There is no evidence supporting the concept that we can reduce recidivism by expanding police power to conduct warrantless searches of people's cars and possessions," Middleton said in a statement. "The proposed expansion of police power would, in essence, create a category of citizens with no right to privacy -- all those who are on probation or parole."

The measure passed the Senate unanimously last year, and the House voted 86-21 to pass the bill in February.

Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said the House likely would take up the override vote early this week.