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Monday, June 19, 2006

Supreme Court Rules that California Parolees may be Routinely Searched

From Associated Press: California parolees can routinely be searched by police as a condition of their release from prison, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in Samson v. California. By a 6-3 vote, justices said the 1996 law is a legitimate attempt by state officials to deal with a large population of repeat offenders who pose a danger to public safety.

In California, most prisoners eventually receive parole. But before release, each parolee is required to consent in writing to searches by police during the term of their supervision. If they refuse, they are not allowed out of prison. Under the law, police can conduct such a search as long as it is not arbitrary, capricious or conducted to harass the parolee.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said California has a "special governmental interest" to control its parolees, an interest that outweighs a parolee's privacy.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing in dissent, said the majority had "run roughshod" over previous court rulings on unreasonable searches and improperly allowed California to create another form of punishment for its prisoners. "What the court sanctions today is an unprecedented curtailment of liberty," Stevens wrote on behalf of himself and Justices David Souter and Stephen Breyer.

Rest of Article. . .  [Mark Godsey]

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