How Far Is Too Far When It Comes To Invasive Searches Of The Body?


By: Ali Sabzevari
A man in Tennessee was arrested for possession of 0.06 grams of marijuana.  In custody, police suspected the man of concealing contraband inside of his body due to his constant fidgeting and attempts “to put his hands in the back of his pants.”  He was taken to a hospital where, without his consent, a doctor medically paralyzed and intubated the man to prevent him from contracting his muscles.  Once the man was completely paralyzed, the doctor performed a rectal examination and retrieved more than five grams of cocaine.  The man was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.
On appeal, the Sixth Circuit in U.S. v. Booker determined that the unconsented search/procedure violated the man’s Fourth Amendment rights because it was “so unreasonable as to shock the conscience.”   Although officers may not force a suspect to have a rectal examination, the Sixth Circuit mentioned a lesser intrusive alternative for retrieval, such as having an x-ray performed and if further medical examination at that point was necessary, engaging in a monitored bowel movement or obtaining a court order to engage in a body cavity search.
Is this a case of overly-zealous police officers or overly-protective judges?