STATE v. JOHN MAIETTA, SC 19524
Judicial District of New Britain
Criminal; Search & Seizure; Whether Exclusionary Rule Applies in Probation Revocation Proceedings; Whether Use of Probation Officers in Law Enforcement Task Force Violates Separation of Powers Doctrine; Whether Condition of Probation Requiring Surrender of Firearms Violates Second Amendment. The defendant was convicted of criminal trespass and harassment charges and sentenced to a suspended prison term and a period of probation. The conditions of probation required that he obey a standing criminal protective order prohibiting him from possessing firearms. The defendant’s ex-girlfriend told a probation officer that the defendant kept several firearms at a Newington garage. The probation officer obtained his supervisor’s permission to search the garage and enlisted the assistance of the Greater New Britain Shooting Task Force—which included both police officers and probation personnel—in conducting the search. Four probation officers and three others, including a Berlin police officer, conducted the search. The team first questioned the defendant at his New Britain apartment and searched the apartment. While the search yielded no firearms, the defendant told probation officers that a .22 caliber revolver “might be” in the Newington garage. The revolver was discovered at the garage and seized, and the defendant was charged with violating his probation by possessing the gun. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions to suppress the revolver and his statements, rejecting the defendant’s claims that the evidence was gathered in violation of his constitutional rights. The court found that the defendant was not subject to a custodial interrogation, noting that the probation officers who asked the questions were not law enforcement officers, and that, in any case, the defendant was not in custody insofar as he had been free to leave. The court rejected the defendant’s claim that his statements constituted an involuntary confession, noting again that the probation officers were not police and that, even if they were, the evidence showed that the statements were voluntary. The court also found that the statements were not the product of an illegal search and seizure, noting that there was no evidence that the defendant was seized as contemplated by the fourth amendment insofar as the probation officers did the questioning and that, even if the fourth amendment applied, the defendant voluntarily allowed the team into his home and voluntarily accompanied one of the probation officers to the garage. Finally, in refusing to suppress the revolver, the court ruled that the exclusionary rule barring the use of evidence gathered in violation of constitutional protections does not apply in probation revocation proceedings. The court noted that the probation system is an arm of the Judicial Branch, not of the police or prosecution, that the defendant had agreed to terms of probation requiring him to submit to searches supported by reasonable suspicion, and that there was reasonable suspicion to support the searches here. The defendant appeals from the judgment revoking his probation, claiming that the searches were unconstitutional and that the exclusionary rule should have applied. The defendant also contends that participation by members of the Office of Adult Probation in the Shooting Task Force violates the separation of powers doctrine. Among the defendant’s other claims are that the condition of probation barring him from owning firearms violates his second amendment rights and that the state presented insufficient evidence that he violated the standing criminal protective order.