Arizona Supreme Court Rules Search Warrant Unnecessary to Search Probationer’s Residence

In the case of State vs. Adair, which was handed down on November 22, 2016, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Arizona Court of Appeals that overturned a trial court ruling to the effect that it was necessary to obtain a warrant in order to conduct a search of the residence of one whom has been placed on probation.  In doing so, the high court held that when a person has been placed on probation and continues on probation, probable cause for such a search is not necessary under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and even a “reasonable suspicion” is not required based upon the weighing of the state’s interests in protecting society versus the probationer’s “significantly diminished” privacy interests when the “totality of the circumstances” are considered, and which suffice as justification for the search.

In Adair, the defendant was placed on probation in March 2012.  As part of the standard conditions of probation, Adair agreed to “submit to search and seizure of person and property” by the probation department “without a search warrant,” and to provide “safe, unrestricted access to” his residence.  In December of the same year, an informant advised the police that he believed Adair to be selling crack cocaine.  While the informant provided the police with his name, etc., he did not want it or any other identifying information included in any police reports or other police documents.  The informant later indicated Adair’s young child may have been with him during subsequent purported drug transactions.  As a result of this information, the police notified the probation department of these reports, which in turn conducted a warrantless search of Adair’s residence that turned up “crack cocaine, scales, packaging materials, about $450 in cash, a gun, and ammunition.

According to the court, the test for determining the validity of a warrantless intrusion to the residence of a probationer is whether the search is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.  The three factors the court considered in determining whether or not the probation department acted reasonably in this instance were: 1) defendant was “a known probationer subject to a valid, enforceable probation condition allowing a warrantless search”; 2) the search was conducted in a “proper manner and for a proper purpose”; and  3) the search was not arbitrary, capricious or harrassing.  The court additionally considered other factors such as defendant’s prior record (other crimes which were similar in nature to his current conviction and the sales alleged by the informant); the potential presence of defendant’s young children; and the informant’s continued contact with the police.  Based on the totality of these considerations, the justices noted that the protection of societal interests substantially outweighed those of the reasonable expectations of the defendant who agreed to the warrantless search as a condition of his probation.

Phone: 928-263-8480
Fax: 928-263-8481
2800 Hualapai Mountain Road
Suite B