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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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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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