U.S. Court of Appeals Has Rejected the Proposition that Parolees Who Knowingly Violate the Terms of Their Release are Subject to Any and All Searches

If it isn’t hard enough for parolees to manage a new life after serving their time in prison, at least they do not face unlimited searches and reduced expectation of privacy, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court of appeals in Chicago rejected the “astonishing proposition” that parolees who knowingly violate the terms of their release are subject to virtually any and all searches.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals conceded that the parolees have a reduced expectation of privacy. However, that doesn’t mean that searches of parolees “conducted at random and based on no suspicion whatsoever” automatically pass muster under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

“Society is prepared to accept that parolees have an expectation of privacy, even if they are up to no good,” wrote Justice John Daniel Tinder.

The court of appeals directed U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan of the Southern District of Illinois to reconsider Kenyon R. Walton’s contention that the search that led to his arrest on drug charges was unreasonable.

In 2012, an Illinois state trooper pulled over a Chevrolet Suburban in Madison County, Ill., which had been rented by Walton and was being driven by Darrallyn Smoot.

The state trooper conducted a stop that lasted about 20 minutes. A drug-sniffing dog allegedly smelled the presence of drugs in the car, and a search of the vehicle uncovered 7 kilograms of cocaine.

Walton filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the drugs, but Judge Reagan ruled he lacked standing to challenge the search. Judge Reagan held that Walton lacked a subjective expectation of privacy because he violated the conditions of his parole in Kentucky by leaving the state without his parole officer’s permission.

Walton also lacked an objective expectation of privacy in the Suburban, Reagan held, because he violated the rental agreement by failing to have a valid driver’s license.

Walton entered into a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal Reagan’s ruling. In the court of appeals decision, it wrote that whether Walton’s license was suspended at the time he rented the Suburban was “murky.”

But even assuming that Walton’s license was suspended, the panel wrote, he had an objective expectation of privacy in the vehicle.

“A driver of a car does not lose all Fourth Amendment protections simply because his license is invalid,” Justice Tinder wrote, citing cases that included United States v. Griffin, 729 F.2d 475 (7th Cir. 1984).

In addition, the panel noted that Walton had an objective expectation of privacy because he was the authorized driver under the rental agreement. A driver typically has standing to challenge a search if he or she is operating the vehicle with the owner’s permission. Johnson v. United States, 604 F.3d 1016 (7th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the court of appeals held that Walton did have a right to challenge the search of the Suburban.

United States v. Kenyon R. Walton, No. 14-1177, U.S. 7th Cir.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling personal injury matters, medical malpractice cases, birth injury cases, nursing home abuse cases and commercial litigation for individuals, families and businesses for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Marquette Park, Englewood, Stockyards, Little Village, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Austin, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Irving Park, Jefferson Park), Park Ridge, Highland Park, Glencoe, Winnetka, Wilmette, Glenview, Niles, Rolling Meadows, Oakbrook Terrace, Oakbrook, Wheaton, Countryside, Geneva and Lemont, Ill.

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