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Stupid Case File for June 3, 2006

Appearently, Felons Can Have Access To Guns ...

Thanks again to Appellate Decisions for the story!

U.S. v. Howard, 05-10469 (9th Cir., May 25, 2006)

The conventional wisdom about probation searches is that probationers can be searched anywhere at any time for any reason. But here’s a case that bucks the trend. In this criminal appeal, the Ninth Circuit reverses Curtis Howard’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. At issue is the legality of a probation search of the apartment of Howard’s girlfriend and, specifically, whether the probation officer had probable cause to believe that Howard was living there.

The district court concluded that the search was lawful and denied Howard’s motion to suppress the gun found inside. However, the Ninth Circuit reverses, focusing on two key facts: the probation officer found Howard at his "official" residence during 20% of his surprise visits (a relatively high ratio) and Howard did not have a key to his girlfriend’s apartment. Accordingly, the Court reverses Howard’s conviction. Judge Noonan writes a dubitante, concurring in the result under circuit precedent, but questioning the majority’s wisdom in giving probationers a safe haven for their guns in the homes of willing girlfriends.

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