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Monday, June 19, 2006

Samson: Suspicionless Search of Parolees is Ok

In Samson v. California, No. 04-9728 (June 19, 2006), the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit a police officer from conducting a suspicionless search of a parolee.
Pursuant to a California statute which requires a parolee to agree to any search, with or without a search warrant, with or without cause, a police officer searched Samson, a parolee, and found methamphetamine. Samson challenged the search as violative of the Fourth Amendment.
The Court noted the diminished expectation of privacy of parolees, who are released from prison on condition they abide by certain rules during the completion of their jail sentence. Moreover, Samson had signed a document agreeing to his search condition, and he was thus ambiguously aware of it. The State, by contrast, has a substantial interest in supervising parolees because of the risk of recidivism. California’s 60 to 70 percent rate of recidivism among parolees indicates the State’s interest in intense supervision.
The Court rejected the argument that California’s law gave unbridled discretion to police to search parolees, noting the State’s prohibition on arbitrary, capricious, or harrasing searches.