MN Supreme Court: Forced cavity searches violate the 4th Amendment

Forced body cavity searches violate the 4th Amendment, according to a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling filed Wednesday.

The court voted to reverse an appeals court decision upholding the conviction of a man arrested in Minneapolis in Aug. 2015 accused of selling drugs.

The Supreme Court ruled that a body cavity search performed against someone’s will violated the 4th Amendment, which guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The August 2015 incident involved Guntallwon Karloyea Brown, who was caught allegedly selling drugs by police. Officers at the scene witnessed Brown possibly concealing something in his pants.

Brown’s behavior led the officer to believe that he “was attempting to jam narcotics up his rectum,” according to the Supreme Court decision. Officers strip-searched him and found further evidence of that.

A judge signed a warrant authorizing a search “on the person of Brown,” at a Minneapolis-area hospital. He refused the search, so law enforcement received another warrant directing hospital staff to execute the search by “any means necessary.”

In its decision, the court said, “We conclude that forcing appellant Guntallwon Karloyea Brown to undergo an anoscopy against his will and under sedation in the presence of nonmedical personnel is a serious invasion of Brown’s dignitary interests in personal privacy and bodily integrity that outweighs the State’s need to retrieve relevant evidence of drug possession.”

The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal’s decision and said the district court must re-try Brown because the search was “unreasonable,” making the evidence obtained during the search inadmissible in court.