People v. Schmitz, S186707.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation149 Cal.Rptr.3d 640,288 P.3d 1259,55 Cal.4th 909
Decision Date03 December 2012
Docket NumberNo. S186707.,S186707.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Douglas George SCHMITZ, Defendant and Appellant.

55 Cal.4th 909
288 P.3d 1259
149 Cal.Rptr.3d 640

2012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 16,140

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Douglas George SCHMITZ, Defendant and Appellant.

No. S186707.

Supreme Court of California

Dec. 3, 2012.

See 4 Witkin & Epstein, Cal.
Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Illegally Obtained Evidence, § 275 et seq.

149 Cal.Rptr.3d 645]William D. Farber, San Rafael, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.
Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Assistant Attorney General, James D. Dutton, Steven T. Oetting, Emily R. Hanks and Theodore M. Cropley, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


[55 Cal.4th 913

[288 P.3d 1263]

This case involves the constitutional limits of a vehicle search based on a passenger's parole status. Here, an officer, aware that the front seat passenger was on parole, searched the backseat of defendant's car and recovered drugs and drug paraphernalia from a chips bag and a pair of shoes. Defendant, the driver, sought to suppress that evidence. We conclude that the search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We hold that the Constitution permits a search of those areas of the passenger compartment where the officer reasonably expects that the parolee could have stowed personal belongings or discarded items when aware of police activity. Additionally, the officer may search personal property located in those areas if the officer reasonably believes that the parolee owns those items or has the ability to exert control over them.


Early in the evening of November 24, 2006, Deputy Sheriff Mihaela Mihai saw defendant's car turn into a dead-end alley lined with the garages of a condominium complex. When defendant then made a U-turn, Mihai stopped alongside his car and asked whether he was lost. Defendant said no, that he [55 Cal.4th 914]had driven into the alley to avoid making a U-turn on the street. Mihai got out of her car and asked defendant for his driver's license. As defendant complied, Mihai observed that his arms were covered with abscesses, which she associated with drug use. Asked if defendant was on probation or parole, defendant said, “No.” Mihai then asked him for permission to search the car. Defendant did not respond.

Defendant had three passengers: a man in the front seat, and a woman and her [149 Cal.Rptr.3d 646]small child in the back. The male passenger said he was on parole. Mihai searched the car on that basis after removing the occupants. In the backseat area, she found a syringe cap in a woman's purse,1 two syringes in a chips bag, and some methamphetamine in a pair of shoes.

Defendant waived a preliminary hearing on resulting charges, but moved to suppress the evidence.2 The suppression hearing took place in a misdemeanor courtroom. Most of the proceedings were not reported. The judge approved a settled statement of the unreported portion of the officer's testimony. The record does not reflect the condition of the items searched or their precise location in the backseat. The officer had no memory of the style of the shoes.

After defendant's suppression motion was denied, he pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts.3 The trial court suspended imposition of sentence and placed defendant on informal probation for three years on condition he serve 90 days in the county jail. Defendant appealed from the denial of his suppression motion.

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the search could not be justified on the basis of the front seat passenger's parole status. It articulated an extremely broad rule that defendant Schmitz, as the driver, “clearly had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his glove box, his console, his door pockets, his own seat, the backseat—indeed every part of his car except the front passenger seat where the parolee was sitting.... Nothing Schmitz did could reasonably have been viewed as ceding authority

[288 P.3d 1264]

over his [55 Cal.4th 915]backseat to the parolee. The parolee had no right to open packages, eat food, or even read magazines he found in the backseat.” 4

[149 Cal.Rptr.3d 647]We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal and clarify the permissible scope of a vehicle search based on a passenger's parole status.

[55 Cal.4th 916]II. DISCUSSION

Challenges to the admissibility of evidence obtained by a police search and seizure are reviewed under federal constitutional standards. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 24; People v. Lomax (2010) 49 Cal.4th 530, 564, fn. 11, 112 Cal.Rptr.3d 96, 234 P.3d 377;People v. Woods (1999) 21 Cal.4th 668, 674, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 981 P.2d 1019( Woods ).) A warrantless search is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment unless it is conducted pursuant to one of the few narrowly drawn exceptions to the constitutional requirement of a warrant. (U.S. Const., 4th Amend.; Arizona v. Gant (2009) 556 U.S. 332, 338, 129 S.Ct. 1710, 173 L.Ed.2d 485( Gant );Woods, supra, 21 Cal.4th at p. 674, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 981 P.2d 1019;People v. Bravo (1987) 43 Cal.3d 600, 609, 238 Cal.Rptr. 282, 738 P.2d 336.) California's parole search clause is one of those exceptions. ( Samson v. California (2006) 547 U.S. 843, 846, 850–857, 126 S.Ct. 2193, 165 L.Ed.2d 250( Samson ).)

Under California statutory law, every inmate eligible for release on parole “is subject to search or seizure by a ... parole officer or

[288 P.3d 1265]

other peace officer at any time of the day or night, with or without a search warrant or with or without cause.” (Pen.Code, § 3067, subd. (b)(3).) Upon release, the parolee is notified that “[y]ou and your residence and any property under your control may be searched without a warrant at any time by any agent of the Department of Corrections [and Rehabilitation] or any law enforcement officer.” (Cal.Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2511, subd. (b)(4); see also Cal.Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2356 [requiring the department staff to [149 Cal.Rptr.3d 648]notify the prisoner of the conditions of parole before release].) There is no dispute that the passenger was on parole and subject to the standard search clause. The Attorney General defends the search solely on that basis.

When considering constitutional challenges to warrantless and suspicionless parole searches based on a search condition, courts weigh the privacy interests of the parolee against society's interest in preventing and detecting recidivism. Both we and the United States Supreme Court have concluded that such searches are reasonable, so long as the parolee's status is known to the officer and the search is not arbitrary, capricious, or harassing. (See Samson, supra, 547 U.S. at pp. 846, 850–856, 126 S.Ct. 2193;People v. Sanders (2003) 31 Cal.4th 318, 332–334, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 630, 73 P.3d 496( Sanders );People v. Reyes (1998) 19 Cal.4th 743, 750–754, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 734, 968 P.2d 445( Reyes ).) “[P]arolees ... have severely diminished expectations of privacy by virtue of their status alone.” ( Samson, supra, 547 U.S. at p. 852, 126 S.Ct. 2193.) “As a convicted felon still subject to the Department of Corrections, a parolee has conditional freedom—granted for the specific purpose of monitoring his transition from inmate to free citizen.” ( Reyes, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 752, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 734, 968 P.2d 445.) The state, by contrast, “has an ‘ “overwhelming interest” ’ in supervising [55 Cal.4th 917]parolees because ‘parolees ... are more likely to commit future criminal offenses.’ Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole [ v. Scott (1998) ], 524 U.S. [357] at 365 [118 S.Ct. 2014, 141 L.Ed.2d 344] (explaining that the interest in combating recidivism ‘is the very premise behind the system of close parole supervision’).” ( Samson, supra, 547 U.S. at p. 853, 126 S.Ct. 2193.) “ The state has a duty not only to assess the efficacy of its rehabilitative efforts but to protect the public....” ( Reyes, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 752, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 734, 968 P.2d 445.) Accordingly, a parolee does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy that would prevent a properly conducted parole search. ( Samson, supra, 547 U.S. at p. 852, 126 S.Ct. 2193;Reyes, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 754, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 734, 968 P.2d 445.)

Different considerations are present, however, when a parole search affects the privacy interests of third parties. In the context of a residential search, we have expressed no doubt that “ ‘those who reside with [a person subject to a search condition] enjoy measurably greater privacy expectations in the eyes of society’ ” than those enjoyed by the parolee. ( Sanders, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 329, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 630, 73 P.3d 496, quoting People v. Robles (2000) 23 Cal.4th 789, 798, 97 Cal.Rptr.2d 914, 3 P.3d 311( Robles ).) Here, we consider the permissible scope of a parole search that infringes on the privacy of a third party driving a car with a parolee passenger. The facts here raise two distinct questions. First, what is the permissible scope of the search of the car's interior? Second, what is the permissible scope of a search of property located in the car?

We have encountered similar questions in the context of a residential search. In Woods, supra, 21 Cal.4th 668, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 981 P.2d 1019, police officers searched a house based on the probation status of one of the residents. We held that evidence found in the house's only bedroom was admissible against two other residents who were not probationers. ( Id. at pp. 672, 681–682, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 981 P.2d 1019.) We observed that “[i]n California, probationers may validly consent in advance to warrantless searches in exchange for the opportunity to avoid service [149 Cal.Rptr.3d 649]of a state prison term. [Citations.]” ( Id. at p. 674, 88 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 981 P.2d 1019.)5 Relying on the “common authority” theory of consent, we concluded that, if others live with

[288 P.3d 1266]


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  • People v. Schmitz, S186707.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 3, 2012
    ...55 Cal.4th 909288 P.3d 1259149 Cal.Rptr.3d 6402012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 16,140The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,v.Douglas George SCHMITZ, Defendant and Appellant.No. S186707.Supreme Court of CaliforniaDec. 3, See 4 Witkin & Epstein, Cal. Criminal Law (4th ed. 2012) Illegally Obtained Evi......

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