Nixon v. State (2001)

In Nixon v. State, 18 P.3d 631 (Wyo. 2001), the Court reviewed warrantless searches of a probationer's residence and of his person. Nixon, a Colorado probationer under the supervision of the Wyoming Department of Probation and Parole, was subject to a probation condition that he submit his person and residence to search and seizure at any time, with or without a search warrant, whenever reasonable cause is determined by a probation officer. In a routine visit to Nixon's residence, two probation officers saw in plain view items indicating possible drug or alcohol use in violation of Nixon's probation conditions. Id. After the probation officers left Nixon's residence, they obtained their supervisor's permission to search it, arranged for two sheriff's deputies to accompany them to Nixon's residence, and returned to that residence, where a search revealed items indicative of possible illegal drug activity. Id. After leaving Nixon's residence upon completion of their search, the probation officers decided to conduct a second search of the residence. The probation officers and several agents of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) returned to Nixon's residence. Outside the residence, the probation officers told Nixon they were going to search his residence again with the assistance of the DCI agents. Id. Nixon consented to a search of his residence and to a search of his person by the DCI agents. Id. The search of Nixon's person uncovered twenty-two grams of cocaine. Id. In response to the drug charge based on the cocaine seized from his person, Nixon moved to suppress that evidence. Id. Denying Nixon's motion, the trial court ruled that his consent to the search of his person was voluntary and that the probation officers had reasonable suspicion to search Nixon's person based on the previous discovery of items in his residence indicative of drug and alcohol use in violation of his probation conditions. Id. On appeal, Nixon raised not only the voluntary consent issue, but also the propriety of the second search of his residence, which had not been raised in the trial court. Id. The Court easily affirmed the voluntary consent issue. Id. As for the propriety of the second search of Nixon's residence, in light of the probation condition requirement of reasonable cause of a probation violation, this Court easily found that the probation officers' plain view discovery of items during the routine residence visit indicating a possible probation violation and the officers' observation of drug-related items during the first search of the residence provided reasonable cause for the probation officers to conduct the second search of the residence. Id.