OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH CIRCUIT, PARISH
JOHNSON, CHIEF JUSTICE.
underlying issue in this case concerns the reasonableness of
a warrantless search of a probationer's residence by
multi-agency state and federal law enforcement personnel.
Specifically, we are called upon to determine whether the
search violated Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article
895(A)(13)(a), which provides as a condition of probation
that the defendant agree "to searches of … his
place of residence … at any time, by the probation
officer … assigned to him, with or without a warrant
… when the probation officer … has reasonable
suspicion to believe that the person who is on probation is
engaged in or has been engaged in criminal activity."
review of the law and record, and considering the arguments
of the parties, we hold that the warrantless search of
defendant's residence violated the provisions of Article
895(A)(13)(a) because the search was not conducted by the
probation officer assigned to her. We further find that
violation of this statute constituted an unconstitutional
search under Louisiana Constitution Article I, §5,
requiring exclusion of the evidence pursuant to Louisiana
Code of Criminal Procedure Article 703(C). Thus, we reverse
the ruling of the court of appeal and reinstate the ruling of
the district court which granted defendant's motion to
suppress the evidence.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
charges against defendant, Kayla Brignac, stem from a
warrantless search of her residence on March 8, 2016. On that
date, two officers from the New Orleans District of Probation
and Parole, Chris Turner and Tiffany Eagles, along with
officers from the United States Marshals Office, the A.T.F
(Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), and
the Louisiana State Police conducted a search of Ms.
Brignac's residence at 524 ½ Bourbon Street in New
Turner testified the "residence check" was prompted
because the probation department received information from
another law enforcement agency that Ms. Brignac may be
involved in the sale of narcotics. During the search of the
residence, officers found Ms. Brignac in a bedroom and
observed what appeared to be a burned marijuana cigarette in
plain view. The officers then searched the kitchen and found
miscellaneous pills and drug paraphernalia. Officers
discovered additional contraband on the porch.
to testimony, Officers Turner and Eagles were not the
probation officers regularly assigned to Ms. Brignac; the
sole probation officer assigned to Ms. Brignac was Officer
Rebecca Soileau. Officer Soileau had previously performed a
residence verification for Ms. Brignac.
6, 2016, the state filed a bill of information charging
defendant with possession of cocaine with intent to
distribute; possession of oxycodone; possession of marijuana
(third offense); and possession of a legend drug. Defendant
filed various motions, including a motion to suppress the
evidence. The district court held a hearing on August 9,
2016, and denied the motion to suppress. Ms. Brignac
subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the motion
to suppress, essentially arguing it was unlawful for the
state to use a probation officer not assigned to her as a
means to conduct a warrantless search of her home by a
multi-agency task force, and further that the search was not
based on "reasonable suspicion." Following argument
on the motion for reconsideration, the district court granted
defendant's motion to suppress the evidence. Considering
La. C.Cr. P. art. 895(A)(13)(a) and the jurisprudence
relating to searches of probationers, the district court
found it "compelling" that Officer Soileau was the
sole probation officer assigned to defendant's case and
that the other probation officers were not regularly assigned
to defendant. The district court found Probation Officers
Turner and Eagles were "simply there in order to effect
a warrantless search … at the behest of outside
agencies." The court further found this was
"clearly not a residency check, " rather "this
was a search, based on a tip." The district court
concluded that the search "smack[ed] of subterfuge to
the point where … Probation and Parole was being
utilized in a manner in which they were legally not able to
court of appeal reversed, finding the officers acted legally
when they conducted the warrantless search. State v.
Brignac, 16-1160, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1/18/17), --
So.3d --. The court explained:
Individuals on probation possess a diminished expectation of
privacy. This reduced expectation of privacy is based on a
probationer's conviction and agreement to allow a
probation officer to investigate his activities in order to
confirm that the probationer is in compliance with the
provisions of his probation. That reduced expectation of
privacy authorizes reasonable warrantless searches of their
persons and residences by their probation or parole officer,
even though less than probable cause may be shown.
This Court has recognized that a probationer is not subject
to the unrestrained power of the authorities, and a search of
the probationer may not be a subterfuge for a police
investigation. However, a probation officer may conduct a
warrantless search of a probationer's property when the
officer believes such a search is necessary in the
performance of his duties, and must be reasonable in light of
the total atmosphere in which it takes place. In order to
determine reasonableness we must consider (1) the scope of
the particular intrusion, (2) the manner in which it was
conducted, (3) the justification for initiating it, and (4)
the place in which it was conducted.
Brignac, at p. 2 (internal citations removed). The
appellate court found the officers possessed reasonable
suspicion to conduct a search of defendant's residence
based on information that she may be involved in the sale of
illegal narcotics. Id. at p. 3. The appellate court
also noted the marijuana cigarette was readily identifiable
in plain view by the officers when they entered
defendant's room which provided officers with the
requisite level of cause to conduct a more thorough search of
the remainder of the residence. Id.
the court of appeal did not directly address Article
895(A)(13)(a), the court found the "district court's
concern that the defendant's probation officer played no
role in the search of the residence … is of little
importance as an appellate court's review on the legality
of the search is based on an assessment of the collective
knowledge possessed by all of the police involved in the
investigation." Id. (internal citations
removed). The court of appeal concluded that
"defendant's status as a probationer did not operate
a subterfuge to conduct a suspicionless search but rather
allowed officers to conduct the search without a warrant and
based on less than probable cause." Id.
(internal citations removed).
Love dissented, finding the search was not reasonable. She
agreed with the district court that the officers
"'were simply there in order to effect a warrantless
search on the behest or at the behest of outside
agencies.'" Id. Judge Love noted "a
residency verification was already conducted on the defendant
by the sole probation officer assigned to her, and the search
in this case was not a residency check, but was a search
based on a tip." Id.
defendant's application, we granted supervisory review.
State v. Brignac, 17-0448 (La. 5/12/17), 219 So.3d
general constitutional rule, warrantless searches are per
se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment of the United
States Constitution and Article I, §5 of the Louisiana
Constitution. State v. Surtain, 09-1835 (La.
3/16/10), 31 So.3d 1037, 1042. Ordinarily, when evidence is
seized without a warrant, the burden is on the state to
demonstrate that a search is justified by some exception to
the warrant requirement. State v. Tatum, 466 So.2d
29, 30-31 (La. 1985). The capacity to claim the protection of
the Fourth Amendment or La. Const. art. I, §5 depends
upon whether the person who claims the protection has a
legitimate expectation of privacy in the invaded place.
See State v. Warren, 05-2248 (La. 2/22/07), 949
So.2d 1215, 1223. This court has long recognized that
individuals on probation possess a diminished expectation of
privacy. State v. Malone, 403 So.2d 1234, 1239 (La.
1981). This diminished expectation of privacy is reflected in
La. C.Cr. P. art. 895(A)(13)(a), which provides:
A. When the court places a defendant on
probation, it shall require the defendant to refrain
from criminal conduct and to pay a supervision fee to defray
the costs of probation supervision, and it may impose
any specific conditions reasonably related to his
rehabilitation, including any of the following. That the
*** (13)(a) Agree to searches of his person,
his property, his place of residence, his
vehicle, or his personal effects, or any or all of them,
at any time, by the probation officer or
the parole officer assigned to him, with or without a
warrant of arrest or with or without a search
warrant, when the probation officer or the
parole officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the
person who is on probation is engaged in or has been engaged
in criminal activity.
(Emphasis added). At issue is whether the search of Ms.
Brignac's residence was conducted in compliance with this
statutory provision, in particular whether the search was
conducted by the probation officer "assigned to"
of La. C.Cr. P. art. 895(A)(13)(a)
Questions of law, such as the proper interpretation of a
statute, are reviewed by this court under the de
novo standard of review. Red Stick Studio Dev.,
L.L.C. v. State ex rel. Dep't of Econ. Dev., 10-0193
(La. 1/19/11), 56 So.3d 181, 187; Louisiana Mun.
Ass'n v. State, 04-0227 (La. 1/19/05), 893 So.2d
809, 836. After our review, we "render judgment on the
record, without deference to the legal conclusions of the
tribunals below. This court is the ultimate arbiter of the
meaning of the laws of this state." Lomont v.
Bennett, 14-2483 (La. 6/30/15), 172 So.3d 620, 628.
parties offer different interpretations of Article
895(A)(13)(a). Defendant argues the language of the statute
is clear and unambiguous, and the district court correctly
gave the "assigned to" language its generally
prevailing meaning. Defendant argues the court of appeal
failed to adequately address, much less provide, a meaningful
review of the district court's ruling. Defendant further
argues the legislative history of the Article supports a
finding that the legislature narrowly tailored the law to
provide authority to conduct such a search only to the
probation agent directly assigned to the probationer.
contrast, the state argues the district court misapplied
Article 895(A)(13)(a). According to the state, this Article
does not require that the probation officer who conducts a
check or search be "the day-to-day supervisory
agent" of the defendant. The state argues in this case
the Office of Probation and Parole assigned two officers to
check on defendant because the office had received
information from law enforcement that she was involved in the
sale of illegal narcotics. Thus, by the plain language of the
statute, Officers Turner and Eagles were "assigned
to" the defendant for a specific purpose by their
office. The state argues nothing in the Article prevents the
Office of Probation and Parole from assigning officers to
conduct a residence check immediately prior to executing it,
as was the case here. The state further argues that to
interpret the Article otherwise would lead to absurd
consequences because if the day-to-day supervisory officer
were unavailable, no action could be taken against a
probationer even if there was overwhelming evidence of a
rules of statutory construction as set forth by this court
are summarized as follows:
The function of statutory interpretation and the construction
given to legislative acts rests with the judicial branch of
the government. The rules of statutory construction are
designed to ascertain and enforce the intent of the
Legislature. Legislation is the solemn expression of
legislative will and, thus, the interpretation of legislation
is primarily the search for the legislative intent. We have
often noted the paramount consideration in statutory
interpretation is ascertainment of the legislative intent and
the reason or reasons which prompted the Legislature to enact
The starting point in the interpretation of any statute is
the language of the statute itself. "When a law is clear
and unambiguous and its application does not lead to absurd
consequences, the law shall be applied as written and no
further interpretation may be made in search of the intent of
the legislature." La. Civ.Code. art. 9. However,
"when the language of the law is susceptible of
different meanings, it must be interpreted as having the
meaning that best conforms to the purpose of the law."
La. Civ.Code art. 10; Moreover, "when the words of a law
are ambiguous, their meaning must be sought by examining the
context in which they occur and the text of the law as a
whole." La. Civ.Code art. 12.
It is also well established that the Legislature is presumed
to enact each statute with deliberation and with full
knowledge of all existing laws on the same subject. Thus,
legislative language will be interpreted on the assumption
the Legislature was aware of existing statutes, well
established principles of statutory construction and with
knowledge of the effect of their acts and a purpose in view.
It is equally well settled under our rules of statutory
construction, where it is possible, courts have a duty in the
interpretation of a statute to adopt a construction which
harmonizes and reconciles it with other provisions dealing
with the same subject matter. La. Civ.Code art. 13.
M.J. Farms, Ltd. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 07-2371 (La.
7/1/08), 998 So.2d 16, 26-27, amended on reh'g
(La. 9/19/08) (internal citations removed). With these
principles in mind, we first consider the language of Article
word "assign" is commonly defined as "to
appoint to a post or duty; to appoint as a duty or
task." Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/
dictionary/assign (last visited September 18, 2017).
The statutory language "assigned to him" implies a
relationship and a duty of supervision by requiring a
particular probation officer be appointed to a particular
probationer. Although the state suggests a broad reading of
this language to encompass searches by any probation officer,
as long as the officer was assigned to some task involving a
probationer, we find the legislature intended a narrower
application. The legislature has explicitly provided that
probationers agree to searches "by the
probation officer … assigned to him."
The specificity of the language contemplates a limited
authority granted only to the particular probation officer
who is generally and regularly assigned to a particular
probationer. The legislative history of La. C.Cr. P. art.
895(A)(13)(a) supports this position.
895(A)(13)(a) did not exist prior to 2008. The Article
originated as House Bill ("HB") 1136, introduced
during the 2008 Regular Session of the Legislature. HB 1136
initially sought to amend and reenact La. R.S.
15:574.4(H)(4)(r), relative to conditions of parole,
specifically to provide that as a condition of parole a
person on parole agrees to searches of his person or property
by law enforcement officers with or without an
arrest or search warrant. At the time, subsection (r)
provided that parolees agreed "to searches of …
his place of residence … at any time, by the
probation officer or the parole officer assigned to him,
with or without a warrant of arrest or with or without a
search warrant, when the probation officer or the parole
officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person
who is on parole is engaged in or has been engaged in
criminal activity since his release on parole."
(Emphasis added). HB 1136 defined "law enforcement
officer" as including "commissioned police
officers, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, marshals, deputy
marshals, correctional officers, constables, wildlife
enforcement agents, state park wardens, and probation and
parole officers." 2008 Original House Bill No. 1136.
was subsequently amended by the House Committee on
Administration of Criminal Justice to provide the same
relative to searches as a condition of probation
through the enactment of Code of Criminal Procedure Article