06/19/2006

Justices say Calif. parolees can be searched without cause

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON- California parolees can routinely be searched by police as a condition of their release from prison, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

By a 6-3 vote, justices said the 1996 law is a legitimate attempt by state officials to deal with a large population of repeat offenders who pose a danger to public safety.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said California has a "special governmental interest" to control its parolees, an interest that outweighs a parolee's privacy.

In California, most prisoners eventually receive parole. But before release, each parolee is required to consent in writing to searches by police during the term of their supervision. If they refuse, they are not allowed out of prison.

Under the law, police can conduct such a search as long as it is not arbitrary, capricious or conducted to harass the parolee.

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