PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A woman has the right to retain two homes used in drug sales if she can prove she opposed her husband's deals, a federal appeals court ruled.

Monday's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sets a precedent in protecting the privacy of a married couple, said John Paul Garhart, attorney for Jane DiLoreto.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Weber ordered the property forfeited after determining Mrs. DiLoreto knew her husband was selling drugs from the houses.

But the appeals court said Weber should have allowed Mrs. DiLoreto to argue she opposed her husband's use of the homes. The court also said Weber improperly considered hearsay evidence in making his decision.

Garhart said Mrs. DiLoreto, the mother of four, faced a dilemma: either break up the family or continue living with her husband in their Erie homed despite his drug dealing.

''The government would have us carve so deeply into the marital relationship for so little gain in the war on drugs,'' he said.

Garhart said the appeals court seemed to be ''trying to make the statute comport to the real world.''

The 3rd Circuit placed the burden of proof on Mrs. DiLoreto and gave the district court leeway to decide whether she will need any evidence beyond her denials to support her defense.

DiLoreto's husband, Richard, 32, was convicted Aug. 10, 1988, of conspiracy to sell $1 million worth of cocaine and marijuana, two counts of using a telephone in the conspiracy and failing to report income from cocaine sales.

Last month, he was sentenced to five years in prison without parole.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Constance M. Bowden would not comment on the decision.