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Name: United States v. Cervantes
Case #: 15-50459
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 06/19/2017

Warrantless, suspicionless search of hotel room rented by defendant on mandatory supervision and his girlfriend did not violate Fourth Amendment. While Cervantes was on mandatory supervision, officers stopped him and his girlfriend for jaywalking. Upon learning Cervantes was on searchable “probation,” officers searched Cervantes and found a hotel room key. They let Cervantes and his girlfriend go, but went to the hotel and searched their room without a warrant. In plain view, the officers found drug and counterfeiting paraphernalia. On appeal, Cervantes challenged the denial of his suppression motion. Held: Affirmed. The Ninth Circuit initially determined that mandatory supervision is more like parole than probation, and therefore precedent governing parole search conditions applied. A suspicionless search of a parolee is generally reasonable where it is authorized by the clear and unambiguous terms of his search condition. Here, Cervantes’ search condition authorized warrantless, suspicionless searches of any “residence” or “premises” under his control. The court here determined that the hotel room qualified as “premises” and that the officers had probable cause to believe the room was under Cervantes’ control. Cervantes told the officers he was renting the room with his girlfriend. Although his girlfriend paid for the room with her credit card, they checked in together as a couple, making the room as much his as it was hers. He also had a key to the room and told the officers his belongings were inside the room. The court disagreed with Cervantes’ argument that the officers violated California’s prohibition against arbitrary, capricious, or harassing searches, noting the officers had no prior knowledge of Cervantes and nothing in the record suggested they conducted the search for an improper purpose or in an unreasonable manner. [Editor’s Note: The court did not consider whether the fact that the officers searched the room while Cervantes and his girlfriend were away rendered the search invalid.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: