CALIFORNIA’S FOURTH AMENDMENT SOUP: THE PAROLE SEARCH EXCEPTION AFTER PEOPLE V. SCHMITZ AND ITS APPLICATION TO THIRD PERSONS
By Daniel Woislaw*
The interests of society in security and order often conflict with the interests of individuals in liberty and autonomy. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures"1 embodies an ideal of freedom that sparked the American Revolution almost two and a half centuries ago, and yet still today is the subject of public discourse and debate. That language, of course, traces from the Fourth Amendment and informs the debate respecting law enforcement’s relationship with parolees and probationers.
Even after the Supreme Court clarified the extent to which the Fourth Amendment applies to individuals on parole in Samson v. California,2 many questions remain unanswered regarding how the parole search exception applies to the liberty and privacy interests of third parties who might be swept up in the search of a parolee. The California Supreme Court took a substantial step in the direction of answering this question in People v. Schmitz, when it held that a police officer’s search of a driver’s vehicle without probable cause did not violate the Fourth Amendment where the front-seat passenger was a parolee.3