Topic:
SEARCH AND SEIZURE; PROBATION; EX-CONVICTS; PAROLE;
Location:
PAROLE; PROBATION; SEARCH AND SEIZURE;
Scope:
Court Cases;

OLR Research Report


January 8, 2002

 

2002-R-0005

SEARCH WAIVERS FOR PAROLEES AND PROBATIONERS

By: Susan Price-Livingston, Associate Attorney

You asked (1) whether probationers must consent to warrantless searches as a condition of program participation and (2) if the same requirement applies to people on parole.

SUMMARY

Probationers, but not parolees, must agree to submit to searches of their person, possessions, vehicles, or residences throughout the period that they are under state supervision. Probation office policy and procedures require probation officers to have a reasonable suspicion that the search will turn up evidence that the person is or has violated a condition of probation and get a supervisor's permission to conduct the search.

Consent to searches is not a standard condition of release for parolees. But Brian Anderson, legislative liaison for the Parole Board, reports that because parolees have a diminished expectation of privacy, parole officers do conduct warrantless searches without parolees' consent. The Connecticut Appellate Court has ruled that parole officers can search parolees or property in their exclusive control when they suspect that the individual is violating his release terms (State v. Whitfield, 26 Conn. App. 103 (1991)).

We enclose copies of each agency's standard terms of release.

OFFICE OF ADULT PROBATION (OAP) PROCEDURES

OAP policy and procedures authorize specially trained probation officers to conduct “planned searches” to locate and seize contraband in the possession or control of a probationer. “Contraband,” under the policy, is any item or substance that the Connecticut General Statutes define as illegal or any item in a probationer's possession that would constitute a violation of the conditions of probation. (For example, sex offenders are often forbidden from possessing sexually stimulating materials.)

Officers must get a supervisor's advance permission to conduct a planned search. They must inform him of:

1. facts and circumstances that warrant a belief that a condition of probation is being or has been violated (“reasonable suspicion”);

2. the place or item to be searched, and its owner or legal tenant;

3. the contraband sought; and

4. any pertinent community/officer safety issues.

At least two probation officers must conduct each planned search. They must bring with them a copy of the “Conditions of Probation” form the probationer signed when he was released and explain, if necessary, that refusing to submit to the search may constitute a probation violation.

A police officer must also be present to secure the premises, limit third party interference, and take custody of any contraband that constitutes evidence of a crime.

U.S. SUPREME COURT DECISION

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a broader standard for warrantless searches of probationers than that followed in Connecticut. Relying in part on the states' interest in protecting potential crime victims and the high recidivism (re-offending) rates of probationers, it concluded that law enforcement officials may justifiably focus on probationers in a way that they cannot on ordinary citizens. Thus, although the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment usually requires criminal (as opposed to probationary) searches to be supported by probable cause and a warrant issued by a judge, when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a probationer subject to a search condition is engaged in criminal activity, there is enough likelihood that criminal conduct is occurring that a warrantless, unconsented search is reasonable (U.S. v. Knights, —U.S.—, 70 U.S.L.W. 4029 (December 11, 2001)).

SP-L:ts