If you are convicted of a criminal offense in Tennessee you could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, a term of probation, or both. If you are sentenced to probation, what that usually really means is that the judge sentenced you to a term of imprisonment but suspended that sentence and allowed you to serve the time on probation instead of in jail. As a probationer in Tennessee you will likely be required to abide by a number of conditions of probation which will likely include an agreement to allow the police to conduct a search of your home at any time. Unfortunately, most people placed on probation don’t pay much attention to the conditions of probation and are, therefore, surprised that they agreed to let the police search their home.
Searches and seizures in the United States are governed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which reads
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Usually, this means that the police cannot search your home without a warrant. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. Consent is one exception. When you are placed on probation you essentially consent to the search of your home for the length of time that you are on probation. While it is true that you really have no choice but to consent, and the argument has been made that it is really a forced consent and therefore not valid, courts have upheld the right of law enforcement officers to search the home of a parolee or probationer. The rationale behind the right to search the home or a probationer is that the probationer is legally under the control of the court while he or she is on probation.
By searching the home of a probationer, a probation officer can check to see if the probationer is abiding by the conditions of probation. For example, a search could turn up drug paraphernalia, alcoholic beverages, or evidence that the probationer is continuing to have contact with gang members.
If a probation search turns up evidence of a violation of probation, the court will be notified and a violation of probation hearing set. If the court is convinced that the defendant did, indeed, violate his or her probation then the probation could be modified, extended, or terminated, and in addition, the defendant could can be ordered to spend all or part of the original sentence in jail.
If you have been sentenced to probation in Tennessee and are concerned about the conditions of your probation, a search of your home, or that you have violated your probation, contact an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney right away.