State v. Scruggs

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 11-04-2015
  • Case #: A151176
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the Court; DeVore, J.; & Garrett, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A strip search culminating in a highly intrusive search into a suspect's genital or anal areas is justifiable under the search incident to arrest exception only where the search is reasonable in time, scope, and intensity.

Defendant appealed three cocaine-related convictions, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to suppress evidence of cocaine found in a strip search because the search violated Article I, Sec. 9 of the Oregon Constitution. Police officers observed Defendant engaging in what appeared to be hand-to-hand drug transactions with known drug users in a well-known drug area, “Crack Alley.” The officers observed Defendant reaching into his pants during the activity. After a chase, the officers caught Defendant and searched his pockets, finding only money. Pursuant to department policy, the officers brought Defendant to the station, then handcuffed and strip-searched him, finding a bag of cocaine pressed against his anus. The trial court held that the search incident to arrest was unreasonable, but allowed the evidence regardless, holding that discovery of the evidence was inevitable. Defendant appealed, arguing that the State offered no evidence that discovery was inevitable at trial, and the court erred in so holding. The State conceded Defendant’s argument, but cross-appealed the trial court’s holding that the strip search was unreasonable and unjustifiable as a search incident to arrest. On review, the Court held the search was unreasonable; given the totality of circumstances, the physical search of Defendant’s body was highly intrusive and unjustifiable given the time, scope, and intensity of the search. Accordingly, the trial court erroneously denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. Reversed and remanded.

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