Samson v. California 547 U.S. 843, 126 S. Ct. 2193, 165 L. Ed.2d 258 (2006)
Samson was walking down the
street minding his own business. A policeman noticed him and remembered
that Samson was on parole.
Under the California Penal
Code (Cal. Penal Code Ann. §3067(a)),
Samson was required to allow any "search and seizure by a parole
officer or other peace officer at any time of the night or day, with or
without a search warrant or with or without cause."
The policeman searched Samson
and found some drugs. He was arrested.
At trial, Samson made a motion
to suppress the evidence on the grounds that the search was a violation of
his 4th Amendment right
The Trial Court convicted
Samson of drug possession. He appealed.
The Appellate Court upheld the
conviction. Samson appealed.
The US Supreme Court upheld
The US Supreme Court found
that suspicionless searches of parolees are lawful and that the search in
this case was reasonable under the 4th Amendment because it was not arbitrary, capricious, or
"A condition of
release can so diminish or eliminate a released prisoner's reasonable
expectation of privacy that a suspicionless search by a law enforcement
officer would not offend the 4th Amendment."
The Court found that
parolees have a diminished expectation of privacy, because they are sorta
almost in prison. Samson could have chosen to stay in prison and be
subject to very strict rules, or get out on parole and be subject to less
strict rules (although stricter than a non-convict).
"In most cases, the
State is willing to extend parole only because it is able to condition
it upon compliance with certain requirements."
The Court noted that Samson
signed the parole forms, and was unambiguously aware of the conditions.
In a way, it was a consent
Although, the reason
suspicionless searches are allowed in prison is that they are administrative
searches designed to maintain a safe
prison. But that same excuse doesn't apply to people on parole, so is
it really a good argument?
In a dissent it was argued
that suspicionless searches like these were the "very evil the 4th
Amendment was intended to stamp
out." In addition, it left the parolee at the whim of whatever
police officer wandered by with some time on his hands.
However, the Court noted
that the California law prevented the police from conducting
"arbitrary, capricious, or harassing" searches, so there was at
least some procedural safeguards
on police behavior.
In general, administrative
searches are only constitutional for special
needs outside of ordinary law
enforcement. But that isn't the case here.
Although it was argued that
there is a special need to help
parolees reintegrate with society.
Courts usually require administrative
searches to be non-discretionary, but
that isn't the case here. The policeman chose to search Samson.