I've opined before about the then-pending bill in the General Assembly which would give police virtually unfettered ability to search people who have been granted probation or parole. With individual civil liberties in mind, Governor Sanford vetoed the bill when it landed on his desk. But on Wednesday, April 28, the governor's veto was overridden by the General Assembly after 2 previous failed attempts. The House voted 74-37, and the Senate voted 36-7, to force the bill into law, effective immediately.
The new law applies to conditionally released juveniles and youthful offenders, furloughed inmates, parolees, and people participating in community supervision programs. It subjects them to search or seizure, without a search warrant, without cause, of their person, any vehicle they own or are driving, and any of their possessions. Let that sink in.
Even though the law doesn't affect those who have been convicted of a Class C misdemeanor or unclassified misdemeanor carrying a possible sentence of 30 days or less prison time, it's still troubling.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell released a pandering and largely self-laudatory press release to announce the law's passage. Speaker Harrell crowed, "These searches are completely warranted because convicted offenders are serving out their remaining sentences in the public in lieu of jail." I'm sure the irony in calling these warrantless searches "warranted" isn't lost on the Speaker. But to follow his logic, because the parolees are in public, they are not afforded the typical Fourth Amendment protections? Further, in order to "reduce recidivism," we're going to go ahead and presume each and every parolee is going to break the law. So why grant them parole in the first place?
So what does this mean for South Carolina criminal defense attorneys? [. . .]