Posted On: April 1, 2011

PA Superior Court Rejects Random Searches of Home as Condition of Probation

In the recently decided case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Alexander, No. 2555 EDA 2008, 2011 WL 941191, 2011 PA Super 54 (March 18, 2011), the PA Superior Court considered whether a condition of the defendant’s probation which subjected him to random searches of his residence violated his rights under both the federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions. The defendant had entered an open guilty plea to violations of the Uniform Firearms Act, and was sentenced to 1-2 years of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of reporting probation. The judge also imposed a condition on his probation and/or parole that would subject him to random searches of his residence by agents of the Gun Violence Task Force.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the validity of the search condition, arguing that it violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures absent a warrant based upon probable cause under both the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The defendant argued the minimum level of reasonable suspicion required to search the home of a defendant on parole should similarly apply in order to search the home of a defendant on probation. The Superior Court agreed, vacating the portion of the defendant’s sentence permitting such searches of his residence while on probation.

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