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Submitted: September 21, 2001

Appeal from the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress by the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Thomas J. McAvoy, then-Chief Judge) on October 2, 2000. Reyes argued that evidence of marijuana plants being grown in his yard and in his home should have been suppressed, because United States probation officers conducted a warrantless search of his property; discovered the marijuana plants in his yard by unlawfully standing in a constitutionally protected curtilage area; and acted as a “stalking horse” for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency. The District Court rejected defendant’s arguments, finding that it was lawful for United States probation officers to walk on the driveway of a convicted person serving a term of federal supervised release toward the backyard of his home during a home visit in an effort to determine whether anyone was at the residence. The District Court also held that the “plain view” exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement applied, declining to suppress evidence of the probation officers’ discovery of marijuana plants in defendant’s yard. The District Court further concluded that the “stalking horse” objection to admissibility did not apply in this case, where the probation officers had a clear duty to make home visits and were lawfully on Reyes’s premises for that purpose.

We hold, inter alia, that a United States probation officer conducting a court-imposed home visit of a convicted person serving a term of federal supervised release is not subject to the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment that would ordinarily apply to a law enforcement officer executing a search warrant for an individual’s home, see Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 878 (1987), or subject to the reasonable suspicion standard applicable to probation searches under United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 122 S. Ct. 587 (2001); that a person on federal supervised release has a severely diminished expectation of privacy, making it reasonable and lawful for probation officers to walk on that individual’s driveway during a required home visit and observe what they may in plain view; and that, while a probation officer legally may seize contraband observed in plain view during a home visit, the probation officer may also consign his seizure authority to other law enforcement officers at the scene by notifying them of the discovery. Finally, we hold that the so-called “stalking horse” theory does not exist as a matter of law, since the objectives and duties of probation officers and law enforcement personnel are often parallel and frequently intertwined. Accordingly, the law permits cooperation between probation officers and other law enforcement officials so that they may work together and share information to achieve their objectives.

 
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