Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spread 'Em!

Anonymous informant calls Houston County police officer with a tip that the suspect is traveling toward Houston County with drugs concealed in his anus.  Suspect is located and arrested, albeit on child support warrants.  Now that he is under arrest, may he be subjected to a visual body cavity search for drugs?

The Supreme Court has instructed that a "search incident to arrest authorizes the police to conduct 'a full search of the person.'"  U.S. v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 (1973).  However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has noted that visual body cavity searches are among the most intrusive of searches and the Supreme Court did not hold that all searches incident to arret are per se reasonable.  What to do?  Ah, yes, bring in the balancing test.  The CCA has provided, based in its interpretation of Supreme Court precedent, that the following four factors are to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a search:
  1. The scope of the particular intrusion;
  2. The manner in which it is conducted;
  3. The justification for initiating it; and
  4. The place in which it is conducted.
McGee v. State, 105 S.W.3d 609.  But really, the entire balancing test hinges on #3, the justification for the search.  In our anonymous tip case, the police needed more than just the tip in order to conduct a visual body cavity search.  Incidentally, they had more because this particular suspect was already on their radar for drug distribution.  That, coupled with the anonymous tip, concluded the 6th District Court of Appeals (Texarkana), was enough to justify the intrusive search. 

I left a lot of good stuff out, but you can read more about this case HERE