State v. Jones, ___ N.C. App. ___, 834 S.E.2d 160 (Oct. 1, 2019)

The defendant was on probation for a conviction of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and he was classified by his probation officer as “extreme high risk” for supervision purposes. Officers from several law enforcement agencies, working in conjunction with probation officers, conducted warrantless searches of the residences of high risk probationers in the county, including the defendant. Officers found drugs and paraphernalia during the search of defendant’s residence, and he was charged with several drug-related felonies. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence from the warrantless search, arguing that it was illegal because it was not “directly related” to his probation supervision, as required by G.S. 15A-1343(b)(13). The appellate court disagreed and affirmed the denial of the defendant’s suppression motion. The facts of this case were distinguishable from State v. Powell, __ N.C. App. __, 800 S.E.2d 745 (2017). In Powell, a U.S. Marshals task force conducted warrantless searches of random probationer’s homes as part of an ongoing operation for its own purposes and did not even notify the probation office. The Powell court held that those warrantless searches were not “directly related” to probation supervision. By contrast, the defendant in this case was selected for the enforcement action by his probation officer based on “his risk assessment, suspected gang affiliation, and positive drug screen,” and the “purpose of the search was to give the added scrutiny and closer supervision required of ‘high risk’ probationers such as the Defendant.” The search was therefore directly related to his supervision.