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Samson v. California


The defendant was placed on parole with the condition that he “shall agree in writing to be subject to search or seizure by a parole officer or other peace officer at any time of the day or night, with or without a search warrant and with or without cause.” A police officer observed the defendant walking along a public street. Without suspicion and based solely on defendant’s status as a parolee, the officer searched him. The officer found a controlled substance in the defendant’s person.


Whether a condition of release can reasonably contain the condition that the defendant is subject to warrantless, suspicionless searches?


Yes. Parolees’ legal status is such that it is reasonable to subject them to warrantless, suspicionless searches.


Parolees are effectively serving their terms of incarceration through a system of intensive supervision. As such, the Court noted that a parolee has even less of an expectation of privacy than a probationer (such as the one in Knights). Also, parolees accept the condition of their release with a clear understanding of the conditions that they will face. Finally, the government maintains an overwhelming interests in controlling prisoners it has released on parole as they are more likely, statistically, to commit future crimes. Based on these three reasons, warrantless, suspicionless searches of parolees is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.


547 U.S. 843, 126 S. Ct. 2193 (2006)

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