The Minnesota Supreme Court recently ruled that forced body cavity searches are unreasonable and violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights. The ruling came after a Minneapolis man was sedated and strapped down so a doctor could perform a forced anoscopy to search for illegal drugs.
Police Search and Seizure Actions
While investigating a ring of crack dealers, Minneapolis police officers arrested a suspect who was believed to have possession of illegal drugs. Officers believed that the man, Guntallwon Brown, had hidden a bag of crack in his body cavity. When he was asked to remove it and refused, police obtained a warrant for an anal body cavity search. Police took Brown to Hennepin Healthcare where they told doctors to execute the search by “any means necessary.”
An attending doctor on staff sedated Brown and strapped him down to a bed. He used a speculum and forceps to extract a baggie containing 2.9 grams of cocaine. As a result of the evidence collected, Brown was arrested and convicted of fifth-degree drug possession. He was sentenced to 90 days of home detention and three years probation.
After reviewing Brown’s case, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Brown must be re-tried on drug possession charges. The court stated that the police conducted an unreasonable search and seizure on Brown that violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Because police actions were ruled “unreasonable,” the evidence obtained during the search was inadmissible in court.
The court decision reversed two lower court decisions based on unreasonable search and seizure. The drugs uncovered when Brown was forced to submit to an anoscopy against his will while under sedation must be suppressed. Brown was granted a new trial in a Minnesota district court.
In a recent statement, a criminal law attorney in Hennepin County said that police officers did everything by the book by getting a warrant before any actions occurred. He stated that the anoscopy, a low-risk procedure, was done because Brown refused to cooperate with police officers. A Hennepin County public defender argued that doctors should not be performing such procedures for a search and seizure. Prosecutors have 90 days to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. If they don’t file an appeal, Brown’s case will be dismissed.