Person on Probation Home Police Search Without a Warrant In California

In People v. Robles (2000) 23 Cal.4th 789 the Supreme Court was faced with the question of a warrantless search conducted at the home of a probationer. The officers suspected defendant, who lived with the probationer, of being involved in the theft of a car. the officers believed the stolen vehicle was located in the garage of the residence shared by the probationer and defendant, who were brothers. However, at the time the officers conducted the search, they were not aware the probationer lived at the house and that his probation contained a search condition. The People tried to justify the otherwise illegal search by arguing the police had a right to conduct the search since the probationer lived at the house. The Supreme Court rejected the argument and found the search violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. "It is true that if persons live with a probationer, common or shared areas of their residence may be searched by officers aware of an applicable search condition. Critically, however, cohabitants need not anticipate that officers with no knowledge of the probationer's existence or search condition may freely invade their residence in the absence of a warrant or exigent circumstances. Thus, while cohabitants have no cause to complain of searches that are reasonably and objectively related to the purposes of probation--for example, when routine monitoring occurs citation or when facts known to the police indicate a possible probation violation that would justify action pursuant to a known search clause citation--they may legitimately challenge those searches that are not." ( People v. Robles, supra, 23 Cal.4th at pp. 798-799.) In People v. Robles (2000) officers searched the garage of the defendant, who was not on probation and not subject to any search condition. The police sought retroactively to justify their warrantless search on the basis of the probationary status and search condition of the defendant's brother, who lived with him. at the time of the search, the police were unaware of the brother's search condition. (Id. at p. 798.) In determining that the search was unlawful, the Supreme Court first focused on the privacy rights of nonprobationers who live with a person subject to a search condition: "The logic of Tyrell J. cannot be stretched to vitiate the illegality of the police action here. Even though a person subject to a search condition has a severely diminished expectation of privacy over his or her person and property, there is no doubt that those who reside with such a person enjoy measurably greater privacy expectations in the eyes of society. . . . In addition, they retain valid privacy expectations in residential areas subject to their exclusive access or control, so long as there is no basis for officers to reasonably believe the probationer has authority over those areas. That persons under the same roof may legitimately harbor differing expectations of privacy is consistent with the principle that one's ability to claim the protection of the Fourth Amendment depends upon the reasonableness of his or her individual expectations. Citations." (Robles, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 798.) Second, the Robles court addressed the concerns of the exclusionary rule implicated in such a search. the court reiterated its observation in Tyrell J. that dispensing with a strict "knowledge-first" rule would not encourage police to engage in warrantless searches because officers would be taking the chance that if the person targeted is not subject to a search condition, any contraband found will be inadmissible in court. (Robles, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 799.) However, the Robles court cautioned "residential searches present an altogether different situation." (Id. at p. 800.) The court stated: "Notably, residences frequently are occupied by several people living together, including immediate family members and perhaps other relatives or friends, as well as guests. Allowing the People to validate a warrantless residential search, after the fact, by means of showing a sufficient connection between the residence and any one of a number of occupants who happens to be subject to a search clause, would encourage the police to engage in facially invalid searches with increased odds that a justification could be found later. It also would create a significant potential for abuse since the police, in effect, would be conducting searches with no perceived boundaries, limitations, or justification." (Ibid.)