Stripping And Searching: There Are Limits To The Scope Of Police Authority To Search Your Person Before Judicial Intervention Is Required.
People v. Hall
10 N.Y.3d 303
New York Court Of Appeals
Decided on March 25, 2008
Police Search Of Your Body: A Warrant Is Required For Police To Invade A Body Cavity.
Summary: Police observed a hand-to-hand drug transaction and arrested Defendant. At the station, Police ordered Defendant to remove his clothing and saw a string hanging from his rectum, pulled it, and it revealed a plastic bag containing crack cocaine. Defendant was indicted for a criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third and fifth degree. Prior to trial, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained from his body cavity. The court granted his motion and the prosecution appealed. The Court of Appeals held that there were no exigent circumstances supporting the warrantless intrusion into the Defendant’s body. The removal of the object without obtaining a warrant violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Issue: Whether Police can preform a visual body inspection followed by a body cavity search without first obtaining a warrant.
Holding: The Court held that a lawful arrest alone does not justify Police intrusion into a person’s body cavity. There must be a clear indication that evidence will be found inside an arrestee’s body cavity and a search warrant authorizing the seizure of evidence must be obtained, unless and emergency situation exists. The Police must have a specific, articulable factual basis supporting a reasonable suspicion to believe an arrestee secreted evidence inside a body cavity and a warrant must be obtained before conducting a manual body search.
Facts: Police observed Defendant in a hand-to-hand drug exchange and took Defendant into custody. They ordered Defendant to remove his clothing, bend over and squat, at which point observed a string hanging out of Defendant’s rectum. They pulled the string and revealed a plastic bag containing crack cocaine. Defendant was subsequently charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third a fifth degree. Prior to trial, he moved to suppress the drugs taken from his body claiming that the Police were required to obtain a warrant before examining his body cavity. The Court granted his motion and the prosecution appealed.
Legal Analysis: The decision examining the Constitutional dimensions of searches that involve Police intrusion into a person’s body is Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 S.Ct. 1826, 16 L.Ed.2d. 908. There are three types of bodily examinations: A strip search, a visual body inspection and a manual body cavity search. A strip search requires the arrestee to disrobe so that the Police can visually inspect the body. A visual body cavity inspection occurs when the Police look at the arrestee’s anal or genital cavities. A manual body cavity search includes some degree of touching that causes physical intrusion beyond the body’s surface.
The removal of an object protruding from a body cavity cannot be accomplished without a warrant, unless exigent circumstances reasonably prevent the Police from seeking authorization. The Court held that the lack of exigent circumstances supporting the warrantless intrusion into the Defendant’s body, and the removal of the object from the Defendant’s rectum without obtaining a warrant was in violation of the Fourth Amendment Right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Police had no specific, articulable, factual basis supporting a reasonable suspicion to believe the Defendant secreted evidence inside his body cavity. The Court stated that when Police saw a string hanging out of Defendant’s rectum, the evidence was not at risk of being destroyed, and therefore, the Police violated the Fourth Amendment and the evidence was inadmissible.