United States v. Keith Russell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 01-05-2012
  • Case #: 11-30030
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Tashima and Tallman
  • Full Text Opinion

An officer can assume that the scope of a general consent search of the person, in a drug investigation, includes a pat-down of the groin area.

Keith Russell drew suspicion from an Alaska Airlines ticket agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The ticket agent called a Port of Seattle Police Officer (working as a DEA task force officer) and described Russell to him saying that he bought a last-minute ticket, in cash, at the counter. Russell was searched by the officer, who identified himself, told Russell he was “free to go”, and asked permission to search Russell’s “bag and person.” The Court found facts from testimony that Russell agreed to the search and never withdrew consent or objected to the manner of search. After “feeling something hard and unnatural” in Russell’s groin area, the officer arrested Russel and found 700 Oxycodone pills in his underwear. The district court denied Russell’s motion to suppress. The Ninth Circuit said this is a case of first impression and applied a fact-intensive inquiry under a Katz, Chan-Jiminez, and Castillo framework. The Ninth Circuit held that “a search of the groin in the context of a drug investigation falls within a general consent to a search of the person” and noted that two other circuits have upheld this type of search. The scope of the search must be objectively reasonable. The Court also said that police often find drugs in the groin area of suspects. AFFIRMED.

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