Governor Mark Sanford vetoed a warrantless searches bill that would give law enforcement officers more authority to search criminals released on probation or parole. The House will take it back up next Tuesday to try and override that veto, again, after the veto was sustained this week.
The governor explains his reasoning for the veto: “I think that when you begin to go into this notion of warrantless search for the rest of us, you move into some dangerous ground. For instance, this was a tough call for us, but I have consistently stood on this notion of civil or individual liberty. I did it with the Real ID Bill, I did it with the DNA Sampling Bill. And, this one, we looked at it, and there was no penalty if you search someone who was not a parolee,” says Sanford.
Sanford says the whole idea behind the bill makes sense, but he doesn’t agree with the lack of consequences for law enforcement who unintentionally, or intentionally, search average citizens.
“There are a lot of unintended consequences that go with very well meaning legislation. So, I would give credit to Joe Riley, I would give credit to folks in the law enforcement community that worked so hard on this bill. I will say again, I would go ahead and sign it if there was some kind of consequence in the legislation for searching somebody who is not a parolee. But leave it out there, I mean, that’s a fairly sacred right of individual liberty,” says Sanford.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell will to try to override Sanford’s veto in the House next Tuesday. He says the bill is another step closer to making South Carolina safer and getting repeat offenders off the streets and he wants the governor’s veto overridden.
“The bill will be taken up again on Tuesday. Next week I expect folks are going to hear from their law enforcement a lot. The bottom line on this question is: if someone wants to get out of prison on probation or parole, do they need to allow the police to search them in order to be out of prison. In my view, it’s not even a hard call. These folks are criminals, they’re paying their debt to society. Just cause you’re on probation doesn’t mean you’ve paid your debt. In fact, you haven’t paid your debt, you’re still paying your debt,” says Harrell.
Harrell says the bill is an attempt to do something about the high crime rates in South Carolina.
“The reason it’s important is because a lot of the crime in our state is by repeat offenders and this will give police a tool. When they see somebody they know is on probation, they know is a bad actor, they can go up to that person and tell them ‘I want to see if you have a gun on you, I want to see if you have drugs on you.’ Frankly, it’ll make South Carolina a safer place,” says Harrell.
Harrell says this is not a constitutional question, as some have said.
“When these people are serving their prison time, we take their voting rights away from them. How much more constitutional to do you get than taking away their right to vote? These same people do not have the right to vote. They don’t have the right to vote, but they do have their right to still be searched for the crime they committed? This is not a constitutional question,” says Harrell.