well established that an individual on probation has a
reduced expectation of privacy, and a community corrections
officer (CCO) may conduct a warrantless search if he or she
suspects the individual has violated a probation condition.
The issue in this case is whether there are any limitations
on the scope of the CCO's search. We hold that article I,
section 7 of the Washington Constitution requires a nexus
between the property searched and the suspected probation
violation. There was no nexus in the search at issue here.
Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals and
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
September 2013, petitioner Curtis Lamont Cornwell was placed
on probation. His judgment and sentence allowed his
probation officer to impose conditions of his release, which
included the following provision:
I am aware that I am subject to search and seizure of my
person, residence, automobile, or other personal property if
there is reasonable cause on the part of the Department of
Corrections to believe that I have violated the
conditions/requirements or instructions above.
Ex. 4, at 3. Cornwell failed to report to the Department of
Corrections (DOC) in violation of his probation, and DOC
subsequently issued a warrant for his arrest.
first came to the attention of Tacoma Police Department
Officer Randy Frisbie and CCO Thomas Grabski because of a
distinctive Chevrolet Monte Carlo observed outside a house
suspected of being a site for drug sales and prostitution.
CCO Grabski later spoke with the registered owner of the
vehicle, who said that she had given the car to Cornwell to
drive but she wanted it back. Unfamiliar with Cornwell, one
of the officers conducted a records check and determined he
had an outstanding warrant.
November 2014, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Officer Frisbie
spotted the Monte Carlo while on patrol with Officer Patrick
Patterson, another member of the Tacoma Police Department.
Officer Frisbie testified that he intended to stop the
vehicle because he believed Cornwell was driving it and he
had an outstanding warrant. He did not initiate the stop
based on any belief that the car contained drugs or a gun or
because he observed a traffic violation.
Officer Frisbie could activate his police lights, the car
pulled into a driveway and Cornwell began to exit it.
Cornwell ignored Officer Frisbie's orders to stay in the
vehicle, and Officer Frisbie believed Cornwell was attempting
to distance himself from the car. Officer Frisbie then
ordered Cornwell to the ground. Cornwell started to lower
himself in apparent compliance before jumping up and running.
Cornwell was apprehended after both officers deployed their
Tasers. He had $1, 573 on his person at the time of arrest.
securing Cornwell, Officer Patterson called CCO Grabski to
the scene. CCO Grabski testified that his job is "to
help apprehend fugitives of [DOC] as well as to look into
violations of people that are on probation." 1 Verbatim
Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Dec. 16, 2014) at 82. He
testified that he believed Cornwell's warrant was for his
failure to report to DOC because "that's pretty much
why there's a warrant in the system is they failed to
report to [DOC]." Id. at 113. Asked if he could
think of another reason a warrant would issue, he said,
"I can't think of anything that would be
arrival at the arrest scene, CCO Gfabski searched the Monte
Carlo. He described the basis for his search as follows:
When people are in violation of probation, they're
subject to search. So he's driving a vehicle, he has a
felony warrant for his arrest by [DOC] which is in violation
of his probation. He's driving the vehicle, he has the
ability to access to enter the vehicle, so I'm searching
the car to make sure there's no further violations of his
Id. at 93. He explained, "If there is anything
in the vehicle, whether it is in a suitcase, clothing,
I'm going to go through those items." Id.
at 94. In this case, CCO Grabski found a black nylon bag
sitting on the front seat of the car. The bag contained
oxycodone, amphetamine and methamphetamine pills, sim cards,
and small spoons. A cell phone was also found in the car.
moved pursuant to CrR 3.6 to suppress the evidence obtained
during the vehicle search. In denying the motion, the trial
court stated that any subjective expectation of privacy
Cornwell had "was not. . . objectively reasonable"
given that he was on probation and had signed conditions of
release that reflected his reduced expectation of privacy.
Id. at 141.
convicted Cornwell of three counts of unlawful possession of
a controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count
of resisting arrest. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of
Appeals affirmed, holding that there need not be a nexus
between the property searched and the alleged probation
violation. State v. Corrmell, No.
47444-1-II, slip op. at 7 (Wash.Ct.App. Sept. 20, 2016)
Alternatively, the court held that if such a nexus were
required, it was satisfied in this instance. Id. at
8. We granted review only as to the lawfulness of the
search of the car Cornwell was driving an unlawful search
requiring suppression of the evidence obtained?
of statutory interpretation and constitutional law are
reviewed de novo. State v. Evans, 177 Wn.2d 186,
191, 298 P.3d 724 (2013).
Preservation of the issue
first address the threshold question of issue preservation
because the State argues Cornwell failed to preserve his
claim that there must be a nexus between the property
searched and the alleged probation violation. Ct. Ordered
Answer to Pet. for Review at 6-7. At the CrR 3.6 hearing,
defense counsel primarily relied on the theory that CCO
Grabski knew that the car ...