Vol. 21 No. 11- U.S. Supreme Court Rules On Parolee Searches And “No Knock” Violations

June 26, 2006


On June 19, 2006 , the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Samson v. California , 2006 U.S. Lexis 4885, and held that under California law a parolee can be subjected to a search by a peace officer without suspicion of wrong doing, nor possession of a warrant. The Court’s interpretation is that a parolee is, in some respects, as if he or she were still incarcerated. “An inmate turned parolee remains in the legal custody of the California Department of Corrections through the remainder of his term…and must comply with all of the terms and conditions of parole, including mandatory drug tests, restrictions on association with felons or gang members, and mandatory meetings with parole officers.”

The Court goes on to point out that additional conditions can be imposed upon parolees because “the essence of parole is release from prison, before the completion of sentence, on the condition that the prisoner abides by certain rules during the balance of the sentence.” The Court also noted that supervised release of a prisoner from state prison, “…in contrast to probation, is meted out in addition to, not in lieu of, incarceration….”

The Court pointed out that California ‘s law is not affected by the fact that other jurisdictions might require a level of individualized suspicion. “That some states and the Federal Government require a level of individualized suspicion is of little relevance to our determination whether California ‘s supervisory system is drawn to meet its needs and is reasonable, taking into account a parolee’s substantially diminished expectation of privacy.”


If a law enforcement officer knows that an individual is on parole, a suspicionless search of the parolee, by the officer, does not violate the parolee’s Fourth Amendment protections. California Penal Code Section 3067(a) requires that an inmate agree to suspicionless searches by a parole officer or any other peace officer at any time while he or she is on parole. The court pointed out that the parolee, “signed an order submitting to the condition and thus was unambiguously aware of it.”

California peace officers have had concerns about relying on a parolee’s waiver of his or her Fourth Amendment rights, as a basis for a suspicionless search. In 2003, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal ruled, in U.S. vs. Crawford, 343 F.3d 961, that such searches were unconstitutional without “reasonable suspicion” that a crime was occurring or had occurred, involving the parolee. Although this case does not cite to the Crawford case, since it is a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, addressing California law, and ruling explicitly that suspicionless searches do not violate parolees’ Fourth Amendment rights, our officers can continue to comply with California law permitting such searches.


On June 15, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Hudson v. Michigan , 2006 U.S. Lexis 4677, where it held that a violation of the knock and announce rule does not necessarily require suppression of all evidence found during a search. In the instant case, probable cause existed and a search warrant had been issued by a judicial officer. It is unrefuted that the officers’ violated the knock and announce rule by entering immediately after announcing their presence. The U.S. Supreme Court, in what may be a new approach toward the knock and announce requirement, stated that suppression of such evidence, under certain circumstances, is not required.

The Court pointed out that in the decision of Weeks v. United States , 232 U.S. 383 (1914), “this Court adopted the federal exclusionary rule for evidence that was unlawfully seized from a homewithout a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” (Emphasis added.) However, the court stated, suppression of evidence “has always been our last resort, not our first impulse. The exclusionary rule generates substantial social costs, which sometimes include setting the guilty free and the dangerous at large. We have therefore been cautious against expanding it….”

The Court stated that the interests in the knock and announce rule include the protection of human life and limb (because an unannounced entry may provoke violence from a surprised resident); property (because citizens presumably would open the door upon an announcement, whereas a forcible entry may destroy it); and privacy and dignity of the sort that can be offended by a sudden entrance. But the rule has never protected one’s interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant.

The Court also indicated that the exclusionary rule is not the only method available to deter violations of the knock and announce law. “Many forms of police misconduct are deterred by civil rights suits, and by the consequences of the increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline.”


California Penal Code §844 requires that law enforcement first demand admittance, and explain the purpose for which admittance is desired, before entering a house to conduct a search or an arrest, pursuant to a warrant. As such, the decision in Hudson v. Michigan does not negate the existence of California state law. What the Supreme Court has stated, however, is that under federal law a violation of the knock and announce rule will not, automatically, cause the suppression of evidence obtained, when the entry was made, pursuant to a court ordered warrant.

As always, we urge that you confer with your department’s legal counsel before relying upon information provided in our Client Alert Memos. However, if you wish to discuss these cases in greater detail, please do not hesitate to contact me at 714 – 446-1400 or at mjm@jones-mayer.com.