Michigan Court Invalidates Probation Officer’s Search of Defendant’s Home

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Michigan drug case discussing a probation officer’s legal authority to search a probationer’s home. Ultimately, while the court agreed that a probation officer can generally search a probationer’s home due to the decreased expectation of privacy probationers enjoy, the search in this case was unlawful because the search occurred after the defendant’s probation had terminated.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was initially placed on probation on June 24, 2013, for a period of two years. That sentence was set to expire on June 25, 2015. However, in September 2015, the defendant’s probation officer asked the court to extend the defendant’s probation until June 25, 2016. Without providing notice to the defendant, or the opportunity to be heard, the judge granted to probation officer’s request.

On December 15, 2015, the defendant’s probation officer conducted a home visit, during which the officer found heroin. The defendant admitted to possessing the heroin and was later arrested. In a pre-trial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the probation officer’s search of his home was not authorized because his initial period of probation had expired back on June 25, 2015. The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion, and the defendant then pleaded guilty, preserving his right to appeal.

On appeal, the defendant raised the same argument as below. This time, the court agreed with him. The court explained that the probation officer could have asked the court to extend the defendant’s probation up to June 25, 2015. However, after that date, the court lost jurisdiction over the defendant’s case, because the term of probation expired. Thus, when the court attempted to extend the defendant’s probation, it lacked the authority to do so. Because the defendant was not on probation when the officer came to conduct the home visit, the search of the defendant’s home was not legally authorized. Thus, anything found during that search must be suppressed.

This case may seem like an anomaly, however, with tens of thousands of people on probation across the state, oversights are not uncommon. Indeed, determining the start and end dates of a probationary sentence is not always straightforward, and even judges can make mistakes. Thus, it is critical for those facing a violation of probation or new criminal charges stemming from their probationary sentence to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Consult with a Dedicated Michigan Defense Attorney Today

If you have recently been arrested for a Michigan violation of probation, or some other offense related to your probation, contact Michigan Defense Law for immediate assistance. While an active term of probation may impact your privacy rights, that is not the case if your probation should have been terminated. Regardless, there may other be defenses to the allegations you are facing. At Michigan Defense Law, our team of knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers works closely with our clients to provide them with the aggressive representation that they need and deserve. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call Michigan Defense Law today at, 248-451-2200.

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