Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole v. Scott

PETITIONER: Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole
LOCATION: United States Department of State

DOCKET NO.: 97-581
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

CITATION: 524 US 357 (1998)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1998
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1998

D. Michael Fisher - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Leonard N. Sosnov - Argued the cause for the respondent
Malcolm L. Stewart - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioner

Facts of the case

In granting Keith M. Scott parole, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (the "Board"), stipulated that he refrain from owning or possessing weapons. When officers learned that Scott may be in possession of weapons, they searched his home and found a bow and arrow and some firearms. Despite objecting at his parole violation hearing that the search was unconstitutional, the seized weapons were admitted as evidence and Scott was ultimately recommitted. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed Scott's challenge to the search and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sustained the decision. The Supreme Court granted the Board certiorari.


Does the federal exclusionary rule, prohibiting the introduction of evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure, apply to parole revocation hearings?

Media for Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole v. Scott

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1998 in Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole v. Scott

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 97-581, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole v. Scott.

General Fisher.

D. Michael Fisher:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case is about Pennsylvania's ability to properly supervise the 21,000 prisoners who have been released from jail into the community on parole.

In this case, Keith Scott, the respondent, was a convicted murderer given a 20-year prison sentence and was released on parole in his eleventh... during his eleventh year.

That release was subject to a number of conditions, among them that he not possess or use firearms, that he not possess or use drugs or alcohol, that he reside in an approved residence, and the condition most important for the consideration of this case was a requirement that he consent to a search of his person.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Now, let me ask you a question or two, if I may, General Fisher.

I take it the Pennsylvania courts have determined that the consent provision that was signed simply did not go beyond consent to search without a warrant and determined that that did not mean that consent was given to a search without reasonable suspicion.

I take it that's the thrust of what the courts below found.

D. Michael Fisher:

That's correct.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And presumably Pennsylvania can redraft its consent form to cover that, I suppose.

D. Michael Fisher:

Justice O'Connor, Pennsylvania supreme court interpreted the consent provision to mean that, in this case, that Scott agreed to reasonable searches within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and to be reasonable the Pennsylvania supreme court said that the search required reasonable suspicion.

That is the issue with which we are--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, I... to get back to my question, I take it they just said that this form that was signed didn't cover the issue of reasonable suspicion, that all it covered was whether it could be without a warrant, and in the absence of a consent, then, they said reasonable suspicion is still required.

D. Michael Fisher:

--They said that the... their interpretation was that... their reading of the Fourth Amendment was that the... that Scott consented to a reasonable search, and that a reasonable search required reasonable suspicion.

We believe--

William H. Rehnquist:

I'm not sure you're right in saying that the Pennsylvania supreme court based its interpretation of the consent form on its reading of the Fourth Amendment.

I thought they might have just based it on an interpretation of Pennsylvania law.

D. Michael Fisher:

--Mr. Chief Justice, we argue very strongly that they did, in fact, interpret it based on their reading of the Fourth Amendment, and that is where we disagree.

We believe that a search of a parolee's residence may be without suspicion, or a suspicionless search.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, you... suppose this consent form were redrafted to make clear that the person paroled is consenting to a search without a warrant and to a search without any suspicion whatever.

Suppose it were drafted that way.

Now, what do you think the Pennsylvania courts would say to that?

D. Michael Fisher:

It's... we believe that the Pennsylvania courts would say, based on what they said in this case, that we could not have that kind of consent form, because we believe they have--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--the Fourth Amendment?

D. Michael Fisher:

--Because the Fourth Amendment requires reasonable suspicion.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

It just wasn't clear to me whether that's what they said, because they could have meant the consent form just didn't cover it.

D. Michael Fisher:

No, Justice O'Connor, we think they said very clearly that the Fourth Amendment requires reasonable suspicion.

John Paul Stevens:

Where do they say that?

Do you want to gives us the--