Division III: iPod Search Without Warrant Gives Parolee Second Chance
This case involves the extent to which a parole officer may search a parolee. Here, the parolee missed his appointment. The parole officer gave him a call, and the two met the next day. The parole officer had to empty his pockets, which included an iPod Nano. When the parole officer picked up the iPod, the parolee looked nervous. There were no other facts that would point to the iPod showing evidence of any crime. The parole officer searched the iPod, and found evidence that the parolee had been using a shotgun. His home was then searched for the shotgun, which of course was found.
A previous case (Parris) involving electronic equipment and a parolee who it violated aspects of their probation found that there was probable cause to seize a memory card. In that case, the memory card actually had the initials of a minor with whom the sex offender was found with. In this case, there was nothing to indicate the parole officer would have found anything on the iPod, and the search of the iPod was improper.
Since we cannot resolve the issue at hand by a reading of the statute, we base our decision principally upon the Sentencing Guidelines Commission (Commission) comment about RCW 9.94A.631(1). The Commission wrote as its official comment behind the statute:
The Commission intends that Community Corrections Officers exercise their arrest powers sparingly, with due consideration for the seriousness of the violation alleged and the impact of confinement on jail population. Violations may be charged by the Community Corrections Officer upon notice of violation and summons, without arrest.
The search and seizure authorized by this section should relate to the violation which the Community Corrections Officer believes to have occurred.
. . . The comment's latter sentence demands a nexus between the searched property and the alleged crime. This demand is consistent with general principles of search and seizure law previously outlined. . . .
RCW 9.94A.631 did not authorize Officer Roger Matinez's warrantless search of the contents of Felipe Jardinez's iPod. The trial court correctly interpreted and applied RCW 9.94A.631. We affirm the trial court's suppression of the evidence of Felipe Jardinez's unlawful possession of a firearm.