June 25, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Warrantless Search Condition of Supervised Release Not Limited to Sex Offenders

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Flaugher on Friday, November 13, 2015.

In 2006, Walter Flaugher pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced to 57 months’ imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release. In 2014, the U.S. Probation Office filed a petition to revoke his supervised release based on several alleged violations. Flaugher stipulated to one of the violations, use of methamphetamine. The district court revoked his supervised release, sentencing him to 12 months and one day in prison followed by three years of supervised release. The district court also imposed a supervised release condition of submission to warrantless search, over Flaugher’s counsel’s objection.

Flaugher appealed, contending 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d) prohibits district courts from imposing the warrantless search condition other than for felons required to register under SORNA. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. The Tenth Circuit rejected Flaugher’s argument that the warrantless search provision applicable to defendants subject to SORNA is precluded for non-felons or felons who are not subject to SORNA. The Tenth Circuit noted that § 3583(d)’s “any other condition” provision specifically allows district courts to impose any condition of supervised release it deems necessary, as long as three limitations are met. This language does not preclude application of a warrantless search condition. The Tenth Circuit further noted that there is nothing in the SORNA warrantless search condition that limits it to sex offenders. The Tenth Circuit found that Flaugher’s proposed construction would render some of the text void or superfluous, and found that its own reading gave full effect to each of the words.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s imposition of the warrantless search condition of supervised release.

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