Brief Fact Summary. Respondent was living under specific probationary restraints that permitted a search of his person with or without warrant by law officers. Respondent became a suspect in a vandalism spree. After observation by a detective, respondent was searched and arrested.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The balance of protecting citizens and observing probationers “requires no more than reasonable suspicion [under the Fourth Amendment] to conduct a search of this probationer’s house.”
In Knights, the Supreme Court held that a warrantless search supported by reasonable suspicion and authorized by a condition of probation, was reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.View Full Point of Law
Issue. “[W]hether the Fourth Amendment limits searches pursuant to this probation condition to those with a ‘probationary’ purpose.”
Held. No. The respondent’s argument, that the “probationary” purpose limitation “follows from our decision in Griffin v. Wisconsin,” . . . which was a “special needs” system, in which, under Wisconsin law, “applied to all Wisconsin probationers.” In other words, the respondent argued, any search must be a “search conducted by a probation officer monitoring whether the probationer is complying with probation restrictions” to comply with the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court dismissed this, instead focusing on a “reasonableness”, and that a State’s “interest in apprehending violators of the criminal law, thereby protecting potential victims of criminal enterprise, may therefore justifiably focus on probationers in a way that it does not on the ordinary citizen.”
Discussion. “Inherent in the very nature of probation is that probationers do not enjoy the absolute liberty to which every citizen is entitled.”