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Iowa: Parole Agreement Does Not Constitute Voluntary Consent that Justifies Warrantless Search

Last year the Supreme Court of Iowa reversed a parolee’s conviction on drug charges, holding that his acceptance of a search condition in a parole agreement did not constitute voluntary consent, and therefore a warrantless, suspicionless search of his car was unreasonable and violative of his rights under the search and seizure clause of the state constitution.

While on parole in 2009, Isaac A. Baldon III was subjected to a search of his person, the motel room where he was staying and his car, all pursuant to a consent-to-search provision in the parole agreement that Baldon, like all Iowa parolees, was required to sign as a prerequisite to being released on parole. The police found a large quantity of marijuana in Baldon’s car and charged him with drug-related offenses.

Baldon moved to suppress the marijuana from the search of his vehicle, arguing that his signing of the parole agreement did not constitute voluntary consent to searches of his person or property. The district court denied the motion and found him guilty of the charges.

On appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed the judgment. Analyzing the issue of consent on state constitutional grounds, the Court concluded, in a thoughtful opinion, that the standard search provision contained in Baldon’s parole agreement did not represent a voluntary grant of consent to searches. Notably, this finding rested on provisions in the Iowa constitution, and the Supreme Court noted that many courts in other jurisdictions “have concluded that consent-search provisions in probation agreements constitute a waiver of search-and-seizure rights.” See: State v. Baldon, 829 N.W.2d 785 (Iowa 2013).

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