Thursday, November 15, 2007

Was that a strip search?

The venerable SCOTUSBlog (Can a blog be venerable? If so, this one is) has put the Maryland buttocks-search case on its list of cases that have a good chance of getting cert. It’s the fifth one down.

If you recall, back in June, the Court of Appeals voted 4-3 to reverse the conviction of John Paulino, whose upper buttocks were spread and searched at a car wash by a police officer looking for cocaine. (A tipster had told police that Paulino routinely hid his drugs between his cheeks.) The majority, led by Judge Greene, said that the police failed to protect Paulino’s privacy when they reached into his exposed undershorts. The dissenters, led by Judge Battaglia, said the search was reasonable; in a separate two-paragraph dissent, Judge Cathell said that if Paulino wanted privacy, he should not have worn his pants so low.

The state is asking the Supreme Court to clarify what constitutes a strip search and whether the Court of Appeals has now outlawed “entirely reasonable police conduct,” according to its cert petition.

Do you think SCOTUS will take this one? Did the Court of Appeals go too far here?

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

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