United States v. Bolivar

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 02-29-2012
  • Case #: 11-3005
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judges Tashima and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

Motley v. Parks did not overrule United States v. Davis , which requires reasonable suspicion, not probable cause, that property is “owned, controlled, or possessed by probationer, in order for the item to fall within the permissible bounds of a probation search.”

Sean Paul Bolivar shared an apartment with a probationer, Philine Black. Police searched the apartment pursuant to a condition of Black’s probation while executing a warrant for her arrest. The police searched a closet with two doors about three or four feet apart, but with an undivided interior. The officers saw male clothes on one side and female clothes on the other, with a distinct space in between. Police searched a purple backpack that was “hanging from a hanger in the middle of the closet,” and found a sawed-off shotgun, which Black claimed belonged to Bolivar. Bolivar was then indicted on several counts, including unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The district court denied Bolivar’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a probation search, citing the Ninth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Davis, which held “that police must have reasonable suspicion[ ] that an item to be searched is owned, controlled, or possessed by probationer, in order for the item to fall within the permissible bounds of a probation search.” Bolivar argued that the Ninth Circuit’s subsequent decision in Motley v. Parks required probable cause to believe that the backpack belonged to Black for a valid search. The Court rejected Bolivar’s argument asserting that in Motley, the Court’s use of “peculiar language” in discussing Davis and its reference to probable cause overruled Davis. Thus, the district court did not err in denying Bolivar’s motion to suppress, because the police officers had a reasonable suspicion that Black exercised control over the backpack. AFFIRMED.

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