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Probation Search Conditions

Life Law Sept. 26, 2023

Cops searching for criminal evidence in the car trunkThe Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and provides that no search “warrants shall be issued, but upon probable cause.” Generally, this means that authorities must obtain a warrant to search your person or your place of residence, but there are exceptions. If a crime is deemed to be occurring, police can conduct what would be called a warrantless search, or seizure, and it would be justified on the grounds of probable cause. 

Another legal way for authorities to conduct warrantless searches is making them a part of a probationary agreement. Say you face jail time for drug possession, but the judge agrees to give you probation instead. Probation might carry several stipulations that cannot be violated, including staying off drugs and checking in with your probation officer regularly.  

The stipulations might also include your agreement to warrantless searches. If your probation officer, for instance, has reason to believe you’re involved in drugs again, they can search you or your premises without a warrant. This is often referred to as a “Fourth Waiver,” that is, you have waived your rights to the provisions of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. 

If you’re facing criminal charges in or near Raleigh, North Carolina, you will need strong and effective representation. Your criminal defense attorney will fight for your innocence and, when probation is involved, will press for no waiver of your Fourth Amendment rights.  

Contact our defense team at Life Law if you are under investigation or facing criminal charges. We will forge a strong defense aimed at obtaining the best possible result. In addition to Raleigh, Life Law also serves clients in Nags Head, Charlotte, Asheville, and Wilmington. 

Understanding the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights passed during the first Congress of the United States. It is designed to protect your right to privacy and to prevent unreasonable searches and seizures. The key word is “unreasonable,” which means that authorities can conduct searches and make seizures that are “reasonable,” that is, during those instances when “probable cause” — a phrase also used in the amendment — justifies such action. 

For instance, if you get pulled over for a traffic violation and you have a stash of illegal drugs sitting in plain view on the passenger’s seat, police do not need to obtain a warrant to search your vehicle and seize the illegal substances. Also, if you’re caught fleeing a store you’ve just robbed with a bag of stolen loot, police can also use probable cause to search you and your belongings. In times of imminent danger, warrantless searches and seizures are also justified 

Warrantless Searches While on Probation

The North Carolina Code on “Conditions of Probation” allows judges to include a waiver of one’s Fourth Amendment rights as part of the probation they issue. The language states that the person on probation must submit “at reasonable times to warrantless searches by a probation officer of the probationer's person and of the probationer's vehicle and premises while the probationer is present, for purposes directly related to the probation supervision….” 

But the code goes on to say that “the probationer may not be required to submit to any other search that would otherwise be unlawful.”  

Though this may sound as if you can object to a warrantless search while on probation, the time for protecting your Fourth Amendment rights is during the judge’s ruling phase. Your attorney should argue against any provision for warrantless searches and seizures. Once the provision has been instituted, you pretty much have ceded your right to privacy and your protection against warrantless searches and seizures. 

However, any search must be “directly related to the probation supervision,” as the code states. If you are on probation because of drug charges, for instance, any search would have to be based on a reasonable suspicion that you’re using or selling drugs again. The probation officer couldn’t just rifle through your belongings to see what you’ve been up to unless there is a reasonable cause. 

For Skilled Legal Counsel, Reach Out to Us

Whenever you face an investigation or a charge in a criminal case, turn to the legal professionals at Life Law. We will begin working on your defense and negotiating with prosecutors for a lesser or dropped charge, or even for a plea bargain. Don’t go it alone. We will also protect your rights in every phase, including any terms of probation. We will fight for your freedom from warrantless searches. 

If you’re in Raleigh or neighboring areas, reach out to Life Law with all your legal concerns and needs. We’ll be on your side throughout the ordeal. Your rights and freedom matter to us.