Fourth Amendment Update Unreasonable Search and Seizure

Note: The facts of this case are graphic. The importance of this case is not based upon these particular facts but rather relative to the message to law enforcement that there are limits that have to be followed and that the Fourth Amendment an important part of our freedoms as American Citizens.




The Sixth Circuit reversed a conviction on Fourth Amendment grounds in United States v. Felix Booker, No. 11-6311 (Aug. 26, 2013). There, the defendant was convicted of possessing one five-ounce rock of crack cocaine, which he had hidden in his rectum. At the time of his arrest, police suspected that Booker had hidden the drugs there. But being unable to retrieve them, they took him to an emergency-room doctor who, without Booker’s consent, performed what the Court described as a “highly intrusive and dehumanizing procedure” which included intubating him for an hour, rendering him unconscious for twenty to thirty minutes, paralyzing him for 7-8 minutes, and ultimately using a finger to remove the crack cocaine and turn it over to the police. The majority attributed the doctor’s conduct to the state for Fourth Amendment purposes since the police delivered Booker to the doctor, stood by without interrupting the procedure, and retained physical control over Booker as their prisoner. Moreover, in assessing the reasonableness of the search, the Court looked to Supreme Court precedent in Rochin v. California and Winston v. Lee, which held respectively that forced stomach pumping and forced surgery using general anesthesia were both unreasonable searches under the constitution. The Court observed that the affront to human dignity was compelling under the facts and “shocks the conscience at least as much as the stomach pumping,” and further noted that less intrusive means were available and that police never tried to obtain a court order. Over a dissent by Judge Gibbons, the Court ordered the evidence suppressed and remanded for further proceedings.



If you, or a loved one, are faced with a possible unreasonable search and seizure issue, please contact Lewis & Dickstein, P.L.L.C.  We are experts in the area of constitutional law and will be happy to discuss and evaluate any legal issue you are facing.  We can be reached by calling (248) 263-6800 or by completing a Request for Information form.