Sunday, June 10th, 2007

Court Upholds Warrantless Search of Probationer’s Bedroom

United States v. Chirino, Docket No. 06-1207-cr (2d Cir. April 12, 2007) (Kearse, McLaughlin, Straub, C.JJ). In a decision that breaks no new ground, the Court upholds the search of a probationer’s bedroom and dresser – where officers found a firearm -that was based on reasonable suspicion that the defendant was in violation of the terms of his probation.

Here, before the search, the officers had information that the defendant, who was on probation for robbery, was in a street gang. Moreover, he had recently been seen in the company of a fourteen-year-old girl who was missing, and who had been held against her will and sexually abused by members of the same gang. When the officers encountered the defendant, he was in bed, nearly naked, with two other underage girls. The Court’s conclusion that these facts constituted reasonable suspicion should shock no one.

The Court also, unsurprisingly, rejected a claim that the evidence recovered during the search should be suppressed because the officers did not comply with state-law procedures.

The only noteworthy, in a bad way, of course, aspect of this opinion is Judge McLaughlin’s concurrence, which articulates his “continuing belief that something less than reasonable suspicion may support the search of the dwelling of a felon on probation.” Indeed, McLaughlin seems to believe that even suspicionless searches of probationers are permissible. Let’s hope that (1) he is wrong, and (2) the question does not get to the Supreme Court anytime soon.

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