Saturday, May 01, 2004

invasive search and seizure ok if life on the line

My criminal procedure professor once asked the class how far we thought the police could go in searching or interrogating someone in a way that would normally violate their rights if either the perps life or another person's (or a bunch of people's) life was on the line. What if it was a terrorist and there was a race against time before a bomb went off somewhere? What if the perp had kidnapped someone who was missing and probably dying?

The courts have ruled that it is an illegal search (too invasive) to pump someone's stomach if the cops saw him swallow some drugs. But what if the perp swallowed so many drugs that his life is actually endangered? A jury in Connecticut has cleared a hospital for doing just that (and also the suppresion of evidence hearing on the motion claiming illegal search and seizure did not fly with the court).

Bridgeport Police Officer Frank D'Amore, who was present during the surgery to seize evidence, also was cleared of the illegal search-and-seizure charge.

"All the treatment he received was medically necessary," said David Robertson, the lawyer from Bai, Pollock and Dunnigan who represented the hospital and its employees. "He's lucky they saved his life."

Embry was brought to the hospital in April 2000 by Bridgeport police after he swallowed at least 26 small packets of crack cocaine during his arrest. Hospital staffers were able to induce Embry into coughing up 25 of the packets, but his blood pressure soared and his heart began to race, suggesting there was more to come.

The kid was still a minor at the time and claimed that even though he gave permission for the surgery he was sedated and the hospital needed permission from his mom. It took the only jury two hours to decide he was out of luck. It probably didn't help that was clearly a pro crack dealer.

Not that we know all the facts here, but it seems we got that question for the prof answered - yes, you can conduct an invasive and typically illegal search and siezure if the perp's life may be on the line. Still unsure about if someone else's life is on the line.

Via The ConnPost.


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