August 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Failed to Make Evidentiary Findings Regarding Justification for Strip Search

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. King on October 27, 2011.

Possession—Controlled Substance—Strip Search—Warrant—Fourth Amendment—Knock and Announce.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of possession of a schedule II controlled substance. The case was remanded with directions.

Defendant contended that the trial court erred in concluding that the strip search, which revealed he was concealing bags of cocaine in his anus, was within the scope of the search warrant. Strip searches require reasonable suspicion specific to the search and are outside the scope of a warrant allowing a search “upon person.” Strip searches must be authorized (1) by a warrant allowing strip searches that includes an articulable basis for the more invasive search; or (2) by officers having particularized reasonable suspicion that the defendant has hidden contraband on his or her body. Here, the officers performed a strip search on defendant when they asked defendant to take off his pants and defendant informed them that he was not wearing underwear. The trial court failed to make any evidentiary findings regarding the justification for the strip search (specifically, whether the officers had the requisite reasonable suspicion that defendant was hiding drugs on his body). Accordingly, the trial court must consider this issue on remand.

Defendant also contended that the officers violated the “knock and announce” principle of the Fourth Amendment. Here, the no-knock method used to execute the warrant was proper because there were exigent circumstances necessitating an unannounced entry. Defendant had a history of drug dealings and the search took place at a motel where there was a bathroom nearby. The officers had a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence likely would result in destruction of the drugs subject to seizure.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries for the Colorado Court of Appeals on October 27, 2011, can be found here.

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