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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 11, 2017 02:17 PM
From: Representative Thomas R. Caltagirone
To: All House members
Subject: Providing Probation Officers with the Authority and Tools to Better Manage Offenders and Protect our Communities
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce HB 470 from last session. House Bill 470 passed the full House 198-2. This legislation is more important now with the scheduled closing of two state prisons. We need to provide our probation officers with all the tools they need to manage parolees. Probation officers in Pennsylvania are handcuffed because they are not permitted to briefly stop (seize) a parolee on the street to conduct a probation/parole check unless they have reasonable suspicion that the parolee is violating the terms of their probation. This standard makes no sense. Parolees are released early from prison because they agree to be supervised by a Probation officer and they know they are subject to searches.

In fact a probation officer can compel a parolee to appear for meetings, submit to drug tests and so on but under current law cannot stop and talk to a parolee on a street corner. It makes common sense to allow probation officers the authority to briefly stop (seize) a parolee in public to confirm they are complying with their conditions of probation or parole. Providing probation officers this authority will not only make our streets safer but it will also provide for a more efficient system.

This legislation is drafted to make Pennsylvania's law consistent with the holding in Samson v. California, 547 US 842 (2006), in that case the U.S. Supreme Court’s decided that suspicionless searches are reasonable under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, under a decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Commonwealth v. Chambers, 55 A.3d 1208 (Pa. Super. 2012), the court determined that probation and parole officers cannot temporarily seize an offender no mater how short in duration without reasonable suspicion. My bill will rectify this inconsistency and provide our probation officers with the authority and tools they need to better protect our communities.

I hope you will join me and co-sponsoring this important legislation.