Can Police Perform Probation Searches?

Criminal defense attorneys always deal with probation searches because judges sentence lots of people to probation. When a judge sentences you to probation, he or she gives you a bunch of rules to follow. Some are obvious. Don’t commit crimes. Don’t use drugs. Report to the probation office once a month. These rules don’t cross any of your constitutional rights. But what about allowing police and probation officers to randomly search you and your home at any time? The Fourth District Court of Appeal addresses this in Bowman v. State.

Trial Judge Orders Probation Searches

In 2017, Bowman pleads open to the judge to Possession of Cannabis over 20 Grams, DUI, Fleeing and Eluding and Reckless Driving. The judge sentences him to 3 years of probation. While on probation, Bowman picks up a new Felony DUI, Felony DWLS and Refusal in 2020. The judge sentences him to 1 year in jail followed by 2 years of drug offender probation. Interestingly, both probation orders allow random, warrantless searches and seizures of your person, then current location and/or residence and your vehicle by probation officers and/or law enforcement.

Analysis of Probation Searches

On appeal, Bowman challenges police’s ability to randomly search him and his home without a warrant. In Grubbs v. State, the Florida Supreme Court allows random probation searches because they’re necessary to ensure that you follow the rules of supervision. But it specifically bans police searches. They can’t perform random warrantless searches because you’re on probation.

The State of Florida argues that the United States Supreme Court overruled Grubbs in US v. Knights in 2001. Knights lets police search probationers’ homes when supported by reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and authorized by the condition of probation. Under the Conformity Clause of the Florida Constitution, Florida courts follow the interpretations of the United States Supreme Court with respect to the Fourth Amendment. Thus, police can search Bowman and his home.

However, the Fourth District sees that Knights only lets police search you and your home with reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Here, the orders allow searches without any reasonable suspicion. Therefore, that requirement is unconstitutional and the Fourth District strikes it from the probation order.

Read the Bowman opinion here!

To read more about violations of probation, check out my page on Violations of Probation!

Talk to An Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Attorney!

Talk to Jared at Brown Legal PLLC about probation searches! The majority of cases include some sort of probation. Jared is an Ivy League educated former prosecutor with over 15 years experience!

The criminal defense firm Brown Legal PLLC operates from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but regularly handles cases throughout South Florida and the rest of the state. Jared has represented people as far away as Pensacola and as far south as Key West. Reach out over the phone at (954) 524-6700 or through the Contact Page if you have any questions.

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