COLUMBIA -- Criminals on probation and parole still stand the chance of being searched without warrants as long as the House will agree to override Gov. Mark Sanford's veto.
The Senate on Wednesday voted 36-7 to override the veto, five more votes than were needed. If the House does not override, the legislation is dead for the year.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, stressed that the legislation stands up to constitutional challenges and applies only to convicts. States from North Carolina to Kentucky to California have similar measures in place.
"I would urge you, really implore you, to make South Carolina a safer place," McConnell said to his colleagues. "You can spin this however you want to, but the blunt truth is, this for the people."
The legislation seeks to allow law enforcement officials to search parolees and probationers, adults and juveniles, without first being granted a search warrant from a judge. Probation and parole agents already have the authority for warrantless searches.
Advocates argue that this will help the cash-strapped state keep a better watch on repeat offenders.
Police would not be allowed to search homes without a warrant, only vehicles and items on the person, such as a purse or a bookbag. People sentenced to crimes that carry sentences of one year or less will not be subject to warrantless searches.
Sanford said the legislation erodes personal liberty and does not guarantee that repeat offenders will stop committing new crimes.
Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, led a fight to sustain the governor's veto.
"You do forfeit some of your rights when you're convicted of a crime, but you don't forfeit your rights under the Constitution," he said.
Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said the legislation has safeguards built in. One such measure is to require law enforcement officials to verify that the person they want to search is on probation or parole. Officers that fail to do so risk disciplinary measures and suspension.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, is expected to lead the charge to find a total of 83 House members to vote to override the governor's veto. He has said that he expects the votes are there to do so.
The House could vote as early as today.