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United States v. Scott

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 25, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
JAVION SCOTT, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: September 18, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. Malcolm J. Howard, Senior District Judge. (5:17-cr-00136-H-1)

         ARGUED:

          Jaclyn Lee DiLauro, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Phillip Anthony Rubin, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          G. Alan DuBois, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before KING and KEENAN, Circuit Judges, and Joseph R. GOODWIN, United States District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia, sitting by designation.

          KING, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Defendant Javion Scott pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of North Carolina to possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, in contravention of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). As part of a conditional guilty plea, Scott reserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress the firearm evidence underlying his conviction. On appeal, he maintains that the firearm evidence was seized during an unconstitutional warrantless search of his apartment.

         At the time of the contested search, Scott was a North Carolina post-release supervisee. As part of his supervision, Scott was subject to a statutory search condition (the "statutory condition") that authorized warrantless searches of his residence by a probation officer. He was also subject to a search condition contained in his supervision agreement (the "agreement condition") that authorized warrantless searches of his residence by his assigned probation officer. Scott claims that the agreement condition - rather than the statutory condition - must control, and that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because his assigned probation officer did not attend the search of his apartment. He also contends that, regardless of which condition controls, his Fourth Amendment rights were contravened because the search was conducted for purposes not reasonably related to his post-release supervision and without any individualized suspicion of criminal activity. As explained below, we reject Scott's contentions and affirm the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.

         I.

         A.

         In June 2010, Scott was convicted in the Superior Court of Cumberland County, North Carolina, of violating North Carolina General Statute section 14-27.5(A), which resulted in an adjudication of guilt on a second-degree sexual offense. The state court sentenced Scott to a term of imprisonment ranging from 60 to 81 months. Upon his release, Scott was placed on state post-release supervision, which the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission (the "Commission") administered.

         North Carolina General Statute section 15A-1368.4 governed Scott's post-release supervision. That statute lists a bevy of requirements, some mandatory and others discretionary. For example, section 15A-1368.4(b) - entitled "Required Condition" - mandates that the Commission impose an express condition forbidding supervisees from committing additional crimes while on supervision. Section 15A-1368.4(c), on the other hand, lists several discretionary conditions that the Commission "may impose" on any supervisee.

         Scott's adjudication of guilt subjected him to more required conditions than the average post-release supervisee. Section 15A-1368.4(b1) - entitled "Additional Required Conditions for Sex Offenders and Persons Convicted of Offenses Involving Physical, Mental, or Sexual Abuse of a Minor" - lists eight additional controlling conditions that apply to individuals, like Scott, who were convicted of certain sexual offenses. Scott's appeal involves one of those additional controlling conditions - the statutory condition. The statutory condition provides that a supervisee shall

[s]ubmit at reasonable times to warrantless searches by a post-release supervision officer of the supervisee's person and of the supervisee's vehicle and premises while the supervisee is present, for purposes reasonably related to the post-release supervision, but the supervisee may not be required to submit to any other search that would otherwise be unlawful. For purposes of this subdivision, warrantless searches of the supervisee's computer or other ...

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