Pennsylvania Warrantless, Suspicionless Search Probation Condition Held Invalid
by Mark Wilson
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a condition of probation authorizing warrantless, suspicionless searches of a probationer’s home was invalid, and remanded the case for resentencing.
On September 1, 2007, Philadelphia police witnessed David A. Wilson point a handgun at a driver in a parked car. He was arrested on gun and drug charges and tried in the Philadelphia Gun Court – a specialized court within the Court of Common Pleas.
Wilson was convicted and sentenced to 30-60 months in prison and a 36-month term of probation. “The trial court emphasized that there was no stricter probation than Gun Court probation.” As a condition of probation, the court authorized warrantless, suspicionless searches of Wilson’s residence for prohibited weapons.
The trial court rejected Wilson’s objection to the search condition but a panel of the Superior Court later vacated the condition. On en banc review, however, the Superior Court reversed itself and affirmed “the search condition as it applied to the probationary sentence, but vacated the condition as it applied to ‘the state parole aspect of the sentence.’” See: Commonwealth v. Wilson, 11 A.3d 519 (Pa Super. 2010).
The Supreme Court reversed, holding that “sentencing courts are not empowered to direct that a probation officer may conduct warrantless, suspicionless searches of a probationer as a condition of probation.” As such, the Supreme Court found that the search condition of Wilson’s probation violated 42 Pa.C.S. § 9912(d)(2), and remanded the case for resentencing.
The Court rejected Wilson’s request to merely strike the search condition, because the trial court “made clear that it viewed the warrantless, suspicionless search condition of probation to be an integral part of the sentencing scheme.” Therefore, “striking the condition, without remanding for resentencing, would be improper.” See: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Wilson, 67 A.3d 736 (Pa. 2013).
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Related legal cases
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Wilson
|Cite||67 A.3d 736 (Pa. 2013)|
|Level||State Supreme Court|
Commonwealth v. Wilson
|Cite||11 A.3d 519 (Pa Super. 2010)|
|Level||State Trial Court|