SAMSON v. CALIFORNIA (No. 04-9728)
Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.
California law provides that every prisoner eligible for release on state parole “shall agree in writing to be subject
to search or seizure by a parole officer or other peace officer at any time of the day or night, with or without a search
warrant and with or without cause.” Cal. Penal Code Ann. §3067(a) (West 2000). We granted certiorari to decide
whether a suspicionless search, conducted under the authority of this statute, violates the Constitution. We hold that
it does not.
In September 2002, petitioner Donald Curtis Samson was on state parole in California, following a conviction for
being a felon in possession of a firearm. On September 6, 2002, Officer Alex Rohleder of the San Bruno Police
Department observed petitioner walking down a street with a woman and a child. Based on a prior contact with
petitioner, Officer Rohleder was aware that petitioner was on parole and believed that he was facing an at large
warrant. Accordingly, Officer Rohleder stopped petitioner and asked him whether he had an outstanding parole
warrant. Petitioner responded that there was no outstanding warrant and that he “was in good standing with his
parole agent.” Brief for Petitioner 4. Officer Rohleder confirmed, by radio dispatch, that petitioner was on parole
and that he did not have an outstanding warrant. Nevertheless, pursuant to Cal. Penal Code Ann. §3067(a) (West
2000) and based solely on petitioner’s status as a parolee, Officer Rohleder searched petitioner. During the search,
Officer Rohleder found a cigarette box in petitioner’s left breast pocket. Inside the box he found a plastic baggie
The State charged petitioner with possession of methamphetamine pursuant to Cal. Health & Safety Code Ann.
§11377(a) (West 1991). The trial court denied petitioner’s motion to suppress the methamphetamine evidence,
finding that Cal. Penal Code Ann. §3067(a) (West 2000) authorized the search and that the search was not “arbitrary
or capricious.” App. 62–63 (Proceedings on Motion to Supress). A jury convicted petitioner of the possession charge
and the trial court sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment.
The California Court of Appeal affirmed. Relying on
, 19 Cal. 4th 743, 968 P. 2d 445 (1998), the
court held that suspicionless searches of parolees are lawful under California law; that “ ‘[s]uch a search is
reasonable within the meaning of the
as long as it is not arbitrary, capricious or harassing’ ”; and
that the search in this case was not arbitrary, capricious, or harassing. No. A102394 (Ct. App. Cal., 1st App. Dist.,
Oct. 14, 2004), App. 12–14.
We granted certiorari, 545 U. S. ___ (2005), to answer a variation of the question this Court left open in