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Date: 07-16-2021

Case Style:


Case Number: 20-892-cr

Judge: Richard Carl Wesley


Plaintiff's Attorney: IFFANY H. LEE, Assistant United States Attorney, for James P.
Kennedy, Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of
New York

Defendant's Attorney:

New York, NY Criminal defense Lawyer Directory


New York, New York - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with a felony drug charge.

The district court made the following factual findings at the close of a twoday evidentiary hearing: Shammar Braggs was recently released on parole after
serving time in prison for the criminal sale of a controlled substance. While on
parole, Braggs was subject to DOCCS supervision and restricted by certain
“standard and special conditions of release.” J.A. 185. Those conditions included
a curfew and a prohibition on possessing firearms, ammunition, or mind-altering
substances. Braggs was also required to sign a form wherein he agreed to, inter
alia, “permit [his] Parole Officer to visit [him] at [his] residence and/or place of
employment and . . . permit the search and inspection of [his] person, residence
and property.” Id. at 145, 185–86.
Separately, DOCCS Directive No. 9404—an internal policy document—
instructs that a parole officer may conduct a warrantless search of a parolee “when
there is an articulable reason to conduct the search that demonstrates a risk to
public safety or the parolee’s re-entry into the community.” Id. at 141. That
document further defines “articulable reason” as being “based upon information
which appears to be reliable and which results from . . . knowledge of specific facts
1 Citations to J.A. refer to the Joint Appendix.5
by a PO,2 observations by said PO, communication from the parolee or from a
family member of the parolee or from a member of the community or other
informant, or from another government agency.” Id. at 142.
Sometime prior to May 19, 2018, DOCCS received “an anonymous tip that
Mr. Braggs may have guns in his house.” Id. at 187. The tip was relayed to parole
officer Brian Bailey through his supervisor; Bailey testified that he received no
further information regarding the source or contents of the tip. Bailey
subsequently conferred with and obtained approval from his supervisors to search
Braggs’s house to ensure that he was in compliance with his release conditions.
When Bailey and a team of parole officers arrived at Braggs’s house on the
morning of May 19, they immediately handcuffed Braggs for “safety reasons” for
the duration of the search. Id. at 187–88. The parole officers recovered two rifles,
one handgun, a loaded magazine, a box of ammunition, drugs and drug
paraphernalia, and $2,700 in cash.
The parole officers then called the Buffalo Police Department and multiple
police officers were dispatched to the house. The police officers read Braggs his
2 I.e., parole officer.6
Miranda warnings. Braggs cooperated during the ensuing questioning and,
according to one of the police officers, stated that “all the guns are mine.” Id. at
On June 27, 2018, federal prosecutors filed charges against Braggs in the
Western District of New York. Once indicted, Braggs moved to suppress the
evidence seized, and the inculpatory statements made, in connection with the
search. The district court granted Braggs’s motion, determining that the search
“was unreasonable under the circumstances and unconstitutional under the
Fourth Amendment.” Id. at 190.
The court found the testifying parole officers to be “wholly credible,” id. at
189, but concluded that they lacked reasonable suspicion to search Braggs, in
violation of what it believed to be the Fourth Amendment’s requirements for
parole searches in light of New York law. The court first observed that Braggs’s
search consent was less permissive than the search consent in Samson v. California;
it reasoned that the suspicionless search permitted in Samson was therefore not
controlling in Braggs’s case. The court then looked to DOCCS Directive No. 9404,
which allows a parole officer to conduct a warrantless search “only when there is
an ‘articulable reason’ to conduct the search.” Id. at 194–95. Because that language 7
appeared to be “equivalent to the [federal] ‘reasonable suspicion’ standard,” the
court deduced that officer Bailey and his team needed reasonable suspicion that
Braggs had violated his parole conditions in order to lawfully execute the
warrantless search. Id. It reinforced that conclusion by interpreting some of our
previous cases as holding that reasonable suspicion was a necessary—rather than
sufficient—condition for a warrantless search of a parolee by a parole officer. Id.
at 192–94.
Finding that the vague, anonymous tip alone fell short of providing
reasonable suspicion of Braggs’s wrongdoing, the district court suppressed the
fruits of the parole search. Id. at 195–98. The Government timely appealed the
district court’s order of suppression pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3731.
This case involves two strands of our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence
that appear to have been either muddled or overlooked as of late. The first deals
with the consideration of state law in prescribing the metes and bounds of the
exclusionary rule in federal prosecutions. The district court determined that the
“appropriate standard for a parole search is reasonable suspicion” in part by
reference to DOCCS Directive No. 9404’s “articulable reason” requirement. J.A. 8
191, 194–95. As a general matter, however, “evidence admissible under federal
law cannot be excluded [in a federal criminal proceeding] because it would be
inadmissible under state law.” United States v. Pforzheimer, 826 F.2d 200, 204 (2d
Cir. 1987) (quoting United States v. Alexander, 761 F.2d 1294 (1st Cir. 1985)). This
remains true even “when the evidence in question was solely the product of a state
investigation.” Id. at 202; see Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364, 366 (1964) (“The
question whether evidence obtained by state officers and used against a defendant
in a federal trial was obtained by unreasonable search and seizure is to be judged
as if the search and seizure had been made by federal officers.”). Of course, state
law may at times “inform the contours of the government intrusion, both in terms
of the legitimate state interests and the parolee’s diminished expectation of
privacy,” United States v. Hensley, 941 F.3d 646, 650 (3d Cir. 2019); but that is not
how the district court performed its analysis nor, as explained below, what was
appropriate given the availability of a straightforward application of the Special
Needs Doctrine. The district court was therefore wrong to adopt DOCCS Directive
No. 9404 as supplying the exclusionary rule’s dimensions in this federal
Second, if only federal law defines the Fourth Amendment equation, how is
a court to evaluate parole searches—that is, searches executed by parole officers
for the purpose of monitoring the parolees under their charge? It is beyond
dispute that a parolee’s home, “like anyone else’s, is protected by the Fourth
Amendment’s requirement that searches be ‘reasonable.’” Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483
U.S. 868, 873 (1987). Nevertheless, the Griffin Court recognized that “[a] State's
operation of a probation system . . . presents ‘special needs’ beyond normal law
enforcement that may justify departures from the usual warrant and probablecause requirements.” Id. at 873–74. In light of these special needs, “a search of a
parolee is permissible so long as it is reasonably related to the parole officer’s
duties.”3 United States v. Grimes, 225 F.3d 254, 259 n.4 (2d Cir. 2000). Among these
duties are the supervision, rehabilitation, and societal reintegration of the parolee,
as well as assuring that “the community is not harmed by the [parolee’s] being at
large.” Griffin, 483 U.S. at 875; see People v. Huntley, 43 N.Y.2d 175, 181–82 (1977).
3 Because parolees “have fewer expectations of privacy than probationers,” Samson, 547
U.S. at 850, the operation of a parole system is afforded at least as much discretion in this
regard as the operation of a probation system, see United States v. Grimes, 225 F.3d 254,
257 (2d Cir. 2000).10
Although we have continued to abide by the Special Needs standard for
parole searches, the trial courts in this Circuit have at times misunderstood the
Supreme Court’s decision in Samson v. California as undermining our Special
Needs jurisprudence.4 Samson was decided in the wake of United States v. Knights,
534 U.S. 112, 121 (2005), which held that a Napa County detective did not violate
the Fourth Amendment by conducting a warrantless search of a probationer’s
apartment based on reasonable suspicion. In Samson, the Supreme Court was
called upon to “answer a variation of the question” the Court left open in Knights—
“whether a condition of release can so diminish or eliminate a released prisoner's
reasonable expectation of privacy that a suspicionless search by a law enforcement
4 We acknowledge that several of our decisions have somewhat-cryptically raised the
question whether a parole search would pass muster under Samson. See, e.g., United States
v. Barner, 666 F.3d 79, 86 (2d Cir. 2012) (declining to decide “whether the search could
have been justified under Samson”); United States v. Quinones, 457 F. App’x 68, 69 n.1 (2d
Cir. 2012) (“We need not decide whether or not Samson bears the weight the Government
suggests because we conclude that the search in this case satisfies even the more
solicitous” Special Needs Doctrine standard); United States v. Viserto, 391 F. App’x 932,
934 (2d Cir. 2010) (finding it “unnecessary for us to decide in this case whether Samson
supplants our past precedent assessing the reasonableness of a parole search by reference
to its relationship to parole duties”); United States v. Watts, 301 F. App’x 39, 42 n.2 (2d Cir.
2008) (“We save for another day and another case the question posed by the
government—whether Samson v. California . . . supplants our prior cases in which we
assessed the ‘reasonableness’ of a parole search.”). Nevertheless, in each of those
decisions, we expressly applied the Special Needs Doctrine test endorsed in Grimes. Had
we believed that Samson in effect overruled Grimes, we assuredly would not have
continued to apply the “reasonably related” analysis.11
officer would not offend the Fourth Amendment.” 547 U.S. at 847. Donald
Samson was a California parolee who was released from prison on condition that
he consent “to be subject to search or seizure by a parole officer or other peace
officer at any time of the day or night, with or without a search warrant and with
or without cause.” Id. at 846 (quoting Cal. Penal Code § 3067(a)). Recognizing
Samson as a parolee, a police officer from the San Bruno Police Department
stopped and searched Samson based solely on that status. Id. at 846–47. The
Supreme Court held the suspicionless search lawful, finding “salient” California’s
expansive search consent in balancing Samson’s expectation of privacy against the
state’s “substantial” interests. Id. at 852–53.
Both Braggs and the Government contend that Samson supports their
favored outcome. But we need not apply Samson here because Braggs was
searched by parole officers—a critical difference. Knights and Samson were
searched by municipal police officers charged with vindicating the “State’s general
interest in law enforcement,” Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67, 79 (2001),
rather than by parole officers responsible for “further[ing] the special needs of the
. . . parole system,” United States v. Barner, 666 F.3d 79, 86 (2d Cir. 2012). Our
colleagues in the Tenth Circuit articulated this distinction over a decade ago:12
We interpret the Griffin line of cases, based on “special need,” as
resting on the rehabilitative relationship between the parolee and the
parole officer, and thus not extending to other law enforcement
officers unless they are acting under the direction of the parole officer.
We interpret the Knights-Samson line of cases as resting on the
parolee’s diminished expectation of privacy stemming from his own
parole agreement and the state regulations applicable to his case.
United States v. Freeman, 479 F.3d 743, 748 (10th Cir. 2007).
Applying the Special Needs Doctrine, we conclude that the search of
Braggs’s house was reasonably related to the performance of the DOCCS officers’
duties and therefore constitutionally permissible. Grimes, 225 F.3d at 259 n.4. Once
Officer Bailey received notice of an anonymous tip suggesting that Braggs had
guns in his possession5—a clear violation of his parole conditions—he and his
team were constitutionally permitted to search the house to determine whether
Braggs was complying with the relevant condition. See Barner, 666 F.3d at 85–86
5 We note that Braggs also disputes the very fact of the tip’s existence and marshals a fair
amount of circumstantial evidence to that end. If his theory were correct, it could
undermine our determination that the search was sufficiently related to a valid purpose
and was instead carried out in order to, say, harass Braggs. See Samson, 547 U.S. at 856
(suggesting that no search regime could constitutionally permit “arbitrary, capricious
or harassing” searches of a parolee (internal quotation marks omitted)); Knights, 534 U.S.
at 122 (noting that under the Special Needs Doctrine, “the actual motivations of
individual officers” may form the basis for a Fourth Amendment challenge). However,
because the magistrate judge who presided over the evidentiary hearing found the parole
officers’ testimony regarding the anonymous tip to be “wholly credible,” J.A. 189, we
decline to reinterpret the evidence as Braggs proposes.13
(holding that once a parole officer received information that, “if true, would have
constituted criminal parole violations . . . the ensuing search satisfied the
reasonable relationship requirement . . . because it was performed in direct
response to information that [the parole officer] obtained and that she had a duty
to investigate further”); United States v. Newton, 369 F.3d 659, 666 (2d Cir. 2004)
(“[O]nce the parole officers in this case received information that Newton had a
gun at his residence and had threatened his mother and her husband, it was a
reasonable exercise of their parole duty to search Ms. Wright’s apartment.”).
Because a search undertaken by a parole officer of a parolee to detect parole
violations is “reasonably related to the parole officer’s duties,” such a search is
“permissible” under the Special Needs framework and accordingly “comport[s]
with the Fourth Amendment.” Grimes, 225 F.3d at 259 n.4; see Huntley, 43 N.Y.2d
at 181 (explaining that a parole officer’s duties include “detect[ing] and
prevent[ing] parole violations for the protection of the public from the further
commission of crimes”). The district court erred in holding that reasonable
suspicion was required in this context.

Outcome: We VACATE the district court’s order of suppression and REMAND the case for further proceedings

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