In Florida, a person who is on probation for a crime does lose some of his/her constitutional rights. For instance, any other person has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in his/her home. This means that a police officer or other agent of the state cannot normally enter a person’s home without valid consent from the owner or a search warrant. When a person commits a crime and goes on probation, his/her constitutional rights are often compromised. For instance, a condition of probation may be that the defendant’s probation officer is allowed to show up to the defendant’s house unannounced and come inside to search. The idea is that a probation officer is allowed to take steps to make sure a person on probation is following the conditions of probation, and a person who commits a crime and goes on probation forfeits some of his/her rights to privacy during the probationary period.
However, this does not extend to all of a probationers’ property and all agents of the state. A police officer does not have free reign to search the property of a person who is on probation.
In a recent drug case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was pulled over for a traffic violation. When the police officer ran his information, he found that the driver was on probation for a drug trafficking charge. When the police officer returned to the defendant’s vehicle, he asked him if he could search his vehicle. The police officer still had the defendant’s driver’s license and had not indicated he was free to leave. The defendant was under the impression that he was required to allow the police officer to search his vehicle because he was on probation. He said that to the police officer, and the police officer allowed the defendant to believe that. The police officer searched the vehicle and found Methamphetamine inside. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of Methamphetamine.
The criminal defense attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the Methamphetamine. The motion was granted because the police officer did not have the right to search the vehicle just because the defendant was on probation. While the defendant did give consent to search, it was given under the false belief that he had no choice. The police officer was obliged to correct this mistaken belief of the law. Because the police officer used this false legal pretense to gain access to the vehicle, the search of the vehicle was unconstitutional. Therefore, the criminal defense lawyer had the Methamphetamine charge thrown out.