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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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