Friday, July 11, 2014

Probation-related searches can be based on less-reliable information than other searches

Leatherwood v. Welker, No. 13-6152, 2014 WL 3057194, ---- F.3d --- (10th Cir. 7/8/14): Employees of the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections Probation and Parole Division who searched Leatherwood's house are entitled to qualified immunity. Leatherwood was a probationer. His probation officer, Welker, received a a phone call from his ex-wife alleging that Leatherwood had raped his current girlfriend and that Leatherwood might have firearms. Welker also received an email from an assistant DA who had received it from a confidential source alleging personal knowledge that Leatherwood had alcohol and sexual materials in his home. Leatherwood's conditions prohibited possession of pornography or sexually oriented materials. Welker and the other defendants conducted a warrantless search of Leatherwood's home and found firearms. The Court held that, because Leatherwood was a probationer, the search was reasonable if supported by reasonable suspicion. Probation searches may be premised on less reliable information than what is required in other contexts. The phone call from the wife and the email were sufficiently reliable under these circumstances.