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Justices: Search didn't violate 4th Amendment

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A warrantless search of a probationer's property that is conducted reasonably and supported by a probation search term and reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, doesn't violate Fourth Amendment rights, the Indiana Supreme Court held today.

In State of Indiana v. Allan M. Schlechty, No. 38S04-0905-CR-246, the state appealed the trial court grant of probationer Allan Schlechty's motion to suppress drugs and paraphernalia found in his car during a warrantless search. A probation officer and police responded to a report that Schlechty tried to lure a young girl into his car. They believed they could search the car because conditions of his probation included he shall "behave well," not commit any other criminal offenses, and Schlechty had agreed to submit to reasonable warrantless searches.

A split Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed granting the motion, but the Supreme Court reversed. In doing so, the justices analyzed Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868 (1987), and United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112 (2001). A warrantless search under Griffin may be justified on the basis of reasonable suspicion to believe a probation violation has occurred because supervision of probationers is needed to ensure restrictions are followed and the community isn't harmed by having the probationer at large, wrote Justice Robert Rucker. Under Knights, even if there is no probationary purpose at stake, a warrantless search may be justified on the basis of reasonable suspicion to believe the probationer has engaged in criminal activity and that a search condition is one of the terms of probation.

The trial court ruled the search of the car was unreasonable because the state didn't present specific articulable facts from which to conclude there was reasonable suspicion that the search was necessary.

"It appears to us that the trial court may have conflated two different concepts: the 'reasonableness' of the search under the Fourth Amendment on the one hand, versus 'reasonable suspicion' to support the search on the other," wrote Justice Rucker.

But there wasn't anything unreasonable about the search of the car because it was apparently used to try to lure a young girl. Schlechty's conduct implicated the possible criminal offenses of stalking and attempted confinement. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that an officer's subjective motivation for a search is measured against an objective standard of reasonableness. Viewed objectively, the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity had occurred even though their subjective motives for the search may have suggested otherwise, wrote Justice Rucker.

The justices remanded the case for further proceedings.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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