If you've been paroled out of jail, or are on probation trying to avoid jail, the last thing you probably want to see is law enforcement at your front door. Often officers want to search your home, and they don't always have a warrant.
But do they need one? Or can law enforcement just search your home if you're on parole or probation?
Normally, the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they can search a home. This means that officers must have probable cause to believe that the search will turn up evidence of a crime. However, this is not always the case for those on parole or probation.
Most people on probation signed an agreement that allows police to search their home to ensure they are complying with the terms of their probation. While some jurisdictions differ on who can perform the search and exactly what they can look for, but the Supreme Court has ruled that when police have reasonable suspicion and the probation agreement authorizes searches, the search is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
Courts have also found that parolees have a diminished expectation of privacy, meaning law enforcement may not need a warrant to search their homes. Instead, courts will look at a totality of the circumstances to see if the warrantless search was reasonable. Often, officers only need a reasonable suspicion to enter and search a parolee's home.
Generally, once officers can enter a home for a search, they can search wherever evidence of a crime might be found. For those on probation, sometimes this will be limited by the probation agreement, and officers may only search for evidence that would constitute a probation violation.
Practically speaking, however, most probation agreements and conditions for parole prohibit the possession of drugs or firearms. And because these can be hidden just about anywhere, the scope of the search will normally encompass the entire house.
If you have questions about the conditions of your probation or parole, or you've been charged with a probation or parole violation, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney near you.
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