MT: Pretext or subjective intent in a parole search is irrelevant

The subjective intent of the officers conducting a parole search for whether it is really a criminal investigative search is irrelevant. State v. Crawford, 2016 MT 96, 2016 Mont. LEXIS 280 (April 26, 2016):

[*P20] We decline Crawford’s request to inquire into the subjective motivations of Officer Couture and Deputy Read to determine the legality of his arrest for a number of reasons. First, we have never adopted the stalking horse theory to invalidate an otherwise lawful parole search. In Fritz, the defendant maintained that an otherwise lawful search was unlawful because the “police officers … used the probation officers as subterfuge for a criminal investigation.” Fritz, ¶ 13. However, contrary to Crawford’s contention, we did not recognize in Fritz the validity of the stalking horse theory. The facts in Fritz simply did not require us to do so because there was no merit to Fritz’s argument that the officers were not conducting a valid criminal investigation unrelated to Fritz’s status as a probationer. Fritz, ¶ 13. Thus, it was unnecessary in Fritz to consider the validity of the stalking horse theory.

[*P21] Second, our precedent has long established that inquiry into the subjective motivations of law enforcement, necessarily required by the stalking horse theory, is inappropriate in assessing the validity of an arrest. In State v. Farabee, 2000 MT 265, 302 Mont. 29, 22 P.3d 175, we made clear that an otherwise lawful traffic stop under either the Fourth Amendment or the Montana Constitution remained valid despite the subjective motivations of the individual officers involved. We reasoned that the United States Supreme Court had expressly rejected such an inquiry into the subjective motivations of law enforcement in its decision in Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89 (1996), and we concluded that nothing in Article II, Section 11 of the Montana Constitution provided an independent justification for deviating from the United States Supreme Court’s decision. Farabee, ¶ 30. We explained that our precedent clearly demonstrates that “the lawfulness of a traffic stop under the Montana Constitution depends on whether the officer had a particularized suspicion that an occupant of the vehicle has committed or is committing an offense,” not on the actual motivations of individual officers. Farabee, ¶ 30.

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