WA: State const. requires nexus between parole violation and scope of probation search

“It is well established that an individual on probation has a reduced expectation of privacy, and a community corrections officer (CCO) may conduct a warrantless search if he or she suspects the individual has violated a probation condition. The issue in this case is whether there are any limitations on the scope of the CCO’s search. We hold that article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution requires a nexus between the property searched and the suspected probation violation. There was no nexus in the search at issue here. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals and Cornwell’s convictions.” The court resolved a conflict between two divisions of the court of appeals, and the court doesn’t cite the Fourth Amendment. State v. Cornwell, 2018 Wash. LEXIS 205 (Mar. 15, 2018):

¶27 In sum, we believe “[t]he goals of the probation process can … be accomplished with rules and procedures that provide both the necessary societal protections as well as the necessary constitutional protections.” State v. Lampman, 45 Wn. App. 228, 233, 724 P.2d 1092 (1986). Limiting the scope of a CCO’s search to property reasonably believed to have a nexus with the suspected probation violation protects the privacy and dignity of individuals on probation while still allowing the State ample supervision. We therefore hold that article I, section 7 permits a warrantless search of the property of an individual on probation only where there is a nexus between the property searched and the alleged probation violation.

¶28 Applying the nexus requirement to this case, we conclude CCO Grabski’s search of Cornwell’s car exceeded its lawful scope. While CCO Grabski may have suspected Cornwell violated other probation conditions, the only probation violation supported by the record is Cornwell’s failure to report. This court has already determined that there is no nexus between property and the crime of failure to report. State v. Patton, 167 Wn.2d 379, 395, 219 P.3d 651 (2009). Moreover, CCO Grabski’s testimony at the CrR 3.6 hearing confirmed that he had no expectation that the search would produce evidence of Cornwell’s failure to report, and that he searched the vehicle only because Cornwell “ha[d] a felony warrant for his arrest … in violation of his probation [and] [h]e’s driving the vehicle.” 1 VRP at 93. He explained that his search was not limited in scope because “[i]f there is anything in the vehicle, whether it is in a suitcase, clothing, I’m going to go through those items.” Id. at 94. He also testified that he was looking for unrelated probation violations because he searched the vehicle “to make sure there’s no further violations of his probation.” Id. at 93 (emphasis added). CCO Grabski’s search was clearly “‘a fishing expedition,’” which article I, section 7 does not permit. Olsen, 189 Wn.2d at 134 (quoting Combs, 102 Wn. App. at 953).

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