Samson v. California - Oral Argument - February 22, 2006

Samson v. California

Media for Samson v. California

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 19, 2006 in Samson v. California

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 22, 2006 in Samson v. California

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Samson versus California.

Mr. Long.

Robert A. Long, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court--

The search in this case was not based on individualized suspicion, and no other adequate safeguards limited the police officer's discretion to search Petitioner.

For this reason, the search, which would not be permitted by virtually any other State or by the Federal Government, was unreasonable.

The Court has reaffirmed many times that the fourth amendment does not permit the individual officer in the field to exercise unconstrained discretion to search.

The Court has said that the fourth amendment is primarily directed at the evil... it was primarily directed at the evil of general warrants and writs of assistance, and the evil of general warrants and writs of assistance was that they gave individual officers blanket authority to search where they pleased and placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Mr. Long--

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Mr. Long--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--with respect to liberty, as it... it's not disputed, is it, that your client could have had his parole revoked even though the search was suspicionless?

So, we're talking about the difference between revocation of parole, on the one hand, and a separate criminal offense.

Is that right?

Robert A. Long, Jr.:

Well, a parolee has conditional liberty.

But, at the time of this search, Mr. Samson was on parole, there was no suspicion of any wrongdoing--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

But I thought that evidence seized could be introduced, could be a basis to revoke parole.

Robert A. Long, Jr.:

--Oh, well, the Court held, in the Scott case, that the exclusionary rule does not apply at parole revocation hearings.

So, if there is an unreasonable search of a parolee that violates the fourth amendment, the evidence could not be admitted at a criminal trial, but it could be admitted at a parole revocation--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

So, the... what the... the consequence here is whether--

Robert A. Long, Jr.:

--I--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--he will have his parole revoked--

Robert A. Long, Jr.:

--I--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

--or he will have a separate criminal offense.

Robert A. Long, Jr.:

--I understand your question.

In California, Justice Ginsburg, a nonviolent drug offense, the possession of a small amount of an illegal substance, is not a basis for revocation of parole.

It is not possible to revoke parole in California for this offense.

So, parole revocation would not have been a possibility here.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, Justice Ginsburg, I suppose, can pursue her own line of questioning, but let me ask you this, because I... her question suggests this, to me at least.

Suppose the parole officer said,

"Now, look, I'm going to search you. "

"If you don't consent, then I'm going to revoke your parole. "