Legall search? Lawsuit worthy? What should happen to the cops?

15 posts / 0 new
Last post
Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686
Legall search? Lawsuit worthy? What should happen to the cops?

Women Suing State Troopers Over Roadside Cavity Searches | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

To summarize: A woman was pulled over for throwing cigarette butts out of the car window. She and her adult neice were quested about marijuana in the car. "It smells like a daily smoker" thus the cop searched her car without permission and called for a female officer to do a full cavity search. She wore latex gloves however didn't change the gloves at any point during the search.

They found prescription hydrocodone in the car for which the driver had a valid prescription. Later they realized it was missing from her purse.

They filed a complaint but nothing was done so they have gone to the media.

The entire exchange is captured via dashboard camera.

Oh, they were given a warning for the littering.

******

Was this a legal search since the cop said the car smelled of a daily smoker?
Was it appropriate for the cops to contuct the investigation they did over a misdemeanor crime?
Is it lawsuit worthy?
What should happen to the cops involved?

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Women Suing State Troopers Over Roadside Cavity Searches | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

To summarize: A woman was pulled over for throwing cigarette butts out of the car window. She and her adult neice were quested about marijuana in the car. "It smells like a daily smoker" thus the cop searched her car without permission and called for a female officer to do a full cavity search. She wore latex gloves however didn't change the gloves at any point during the search.

They found prescription hydrocodone in the car for which the driver had a valid prescription. Later they realized it was missing from her purse.

They filed a complaint but nothing was done so they have gone to the media.

The entire exchange is captured via dashboard camera.

Oh, they were given a warning for the littering.

******

Was this a legal search since the cop said the car smelled of a daily smoker?
Was it appropriate for the cops to contuct the investigation they did over a misdemeanor crime?
Is it lawsuit worthy?
What should happen to the cops involved?

Tossing cigarettes here is a big fine, due to forest fires, so pulling over was fine.. Marijuana...It would be legal to search I think, long as it isn't legal in that state or they can't provide med card, like in Oregon. No cavity search for Marijuana though. Might depend on State, I am in a pretty liberal one and that wouldn't go over.. might for heroin.. not sure. Lawsuit.. not sure I hate them anyway. Cops should not be able do cavity searches unless the people are being processed and arrested.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4114

They had no probable cause even to search the car without a warrant. Unless you give them permission they have to get a warrant to even search the car, let alone do a cavity search. This was just wrong. I don't think they should get millions of dollars over it, but I think they were right to file a lawsuit to bring it to the attention of the public since no action was taken on their complaint. I do think the officers involved should face diciplinary action, not sure exactly what that should be but whatever punishment they apply for similar infractions should be applied.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

They had no probable cause even to search the car without a warrant. Unless you give them permission they have to get a warrant to even search the car, let alone do a cavity search. This was just wrong. I don't think they should get millions of dollars over it, but I think they were right to file a lawsuit to bring it to the attention of the public since no action was taken on their complaint. I do think the officers involved should face diciplinary action, not sure exactly what that should be but whatever punishment they apply for similar infractions should be applied.

This is the part that bothers me the most - the same glove for all four cavities. I asked SO last night, what if the first one had herpes? Or the second one got a UTI? Disgusting to me!

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

"Rivergallery" wrote:

Tossing cigarettes here is a big fine, due to forest fires, so pulling over was fine.. Marijuana...It would be legal to search I think, long as it isn't legal in that state or they can't provide med card, like in Oregon. No cavity search for Marijuana though. Might depend on State, I am in a pretty liberal one and that wouldn't go over.. might for heroin.. not sure. Lawsuit.. not sure I hate them anyway. Cops should not be able do cavity searches unless the people are being processed and arrested.

Here too for the same reason. But, they received just a warning for this.

Search the car without permission for a misdemeanor due to thinking the car smelled like a habitual smoker? It's legal for a 16 or 17 YO to drive but not have cigarettes. If their parents' car smelled of daily cigarette smoke is that reasonable to search the minors and the car for cigarettes?

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Ugh this is awful. I completely agree with Gloria and I am queasy over the thought of the same glove being used.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 672

Holy crap!

I don't think it was a legal search even though they suspected pot use, it wasn't her car. I can't believe they did a cavity search on the side of the road while people were driving by, if they felt the need to do that they should have arrested them (or taken into custody) and gone back to the police station to do it in privacy....I can see the women getting major $$$ just for that alone. Ick, on the using same set of gloves.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1686

I have no experience with this: if her boyfriend did smoke pot in the car (on a daily basis?), would their fresh cigarette smoke mask the scent?

I've been pulled over and told I smelled of alcohol. No, it was purfume. At what point does it go from reasonable to unreasonable?

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4114

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

This is the part that bothers me the most - the same glove for all four cavities. I asked SO last night, what if the first one had herpes? Or the second one got a UTI? Disgusting to me!

I don't think the woman officer bears as much blame since she was not originally at the scene so may have not had any idea what went on previously or why she was asked to search them. But I agree using the same gloves was disgusting. Exactly the reason a search like this shouldn't have been done on the side of the road.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

Overall I am not a fan of suing unless there is a really good reason. I think suing bares the blame of some of our medical cost problems.

That said, I think it is absolutely terrible to do a full body cavity search unless you have a really good reason. What a violation. I am not sure I would get over something like that. I do think the officers should have to be at least talked to by their superiors.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 672

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

I have no experience with this: if her boyfriend did smoke pot in the car (on a daily basis?), would their fresh cigarette smoke mask the scent?

I've been pulled over and told I smelled of alcohol. No, it was purfume. At what point does it go from reasonable to unreasonable?

no, it wouldn't. You would still be able to smell it.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"Sapphire Sunsets" wrote:

Holy crap!

I don't think it was a legal search even though they suspected pot use, it wasn't her car. I can't believe they did a cavity search on the side of the road while people were driving by, if they felt the need to do that they should have arrested them (or taken into custody) and gone back to the police station to do it in privacy....I can see the women getting major $$$ just for that alone. Ick, on the using same set of gloves.

Totally agree with this. Who on earth does a fully body cavity search on the side of the road for suspicion of smoking mj???? And the thought of the same set of gloves is just too gross.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Here too for the same reason. But, they received just a warning for this.

Search the car without permission for a misdemeanor due to thinking the car smelled like a habitual smoker? It's legal for a 16 or 17 YO to drive but not have cigarettes. If their parents' car smelled of daily cigarette smoke is that reasonable to search the minors and the car for cigarettes?

I took it to mean smoker of marijuana.. There is a definite smell difference... Not sure if it would need a warrant or not, But I thought not. Might depends on the state?

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 672

update to this.

Texas set to 'terminate' trooper following roadside cavity searches - U.S. News

The female Texas trooper who performed a roadside cavity search on two women will be terminated, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The two women from Irving are suing Trooper David Farrell, Trooper Kelley Helleson and the director of the Department of Public Safety for what they call an unconstitutional search without probable cause.
DPS spokesman Tom Vinger released the following statement on Tuesday: "The Director of DPS has made a preliminary determination to terminate Kelly Helleson. By policy, she will be given the opportunity to meet with the director before the decision is finalized."

Helleson was suspended with pay on Dec. 19. Farrell was suspended with pay effective Dec. 21 pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.

On July 13, while driving along State Highway 161, Angel Dobbs and her niece Ashley Dobbs were stopped for littering by Farrell. In the dashcam video released by the women and their attorney, Farrell can be heard telling the women they would both be cited for littering for throwing cigarette butts out of the car.
Farrell then returned to his cruiser and, in the video, can be heard calling female Trooper Helleson to the scene to search both women whom he said were acting weird.
While waiting for Helleson to arrive, Farrell asked Angel Dobbs to step out of the vehicle and began questioning her about marijuana use. In the video, the trooper is heard telling Dobbs he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle while asking her several times how much pot was in the car.
After Helleson arrived, she can be seen in the dashcam video putting on blue latex gloves to conduct a search of both women. According to the lawsuit, when Angel Dobbs asked about the gloves, Helleson "told her not to worry about that."
'I was totally violated'
In the lawsuit, Dobbs said the trooper conducted the cavity search on the roadside, illuminated by the police car's headlights, in full view of any passing motorists.
"This has been an eye-opening experience for me. I've never been pulled over, never searched like this. I was totally violated over there a few minutes ago... this is so embarrassing to me," Angel Dobbs said on the video.
"I've never been so humiliated or so violated or felt so molested in my entire life," Angel Dobbs told NBC 5.
Dobbs said she never gave consent for the trooper to "frisk, pat-down, search or otherwise touch her" and that she never gave consent for Farrell to search her vehicle -- which he can be seen doing in the dashcam video while the cavity search was under way.
Dobbs said she was powerless to stop it. "What are you going to say? What's going to happen to you if you challenge that authority?" she said.
With the cavity search concluded, Farrell then asked Dobbs about prescription medications found in the car. Dobbs said they were for her thyroid and for migraines. According to the lawsuit, Dobbs also suffers from a medical condition that was irritated by the search.

Meanwhile, Helleson can then be seen performing the same cavity search on Dobbs' niece, Ashley.

"It's because somebody is a daily smoker in that car. OK, you can attribute it to that," Farrell can be heard saying on the recording.
The lawsuit further alleges that Helleson performed searches on both women, touching both their anus and vaginas, without changing the latex gloves between searches.
"I don't think anybody needs to have to feel, or go through what we went through," Ashley Dobbs said. "It crosses my mind every day. It's humiliating," she said.
After searching the entire car and finding no narcotics, Farrell then administered a DWI test that Dobbs passed, the lawsuit said. The women were then issued warnings for littering and released at the scene.
The lawsuit goes on to say that a bottle of prescribed hydrocodone was missing from Dobbs' car and purse after the search. The women returned to the scene of the traffic stop the next day to search for the medication, but it was nowhere to be found.
Their lawyers say the search was illegal and a complaint about it was filed in August but that DPS Texas Rangers who investigated the incident took no action.
"This is outside the constitutional grounds by a mile. It's not even close," attorney Scott Palmer said. "This has to stop. These two need to be stopped. There's no telling how many other people they've done this to and we hope that others come forward."
Attorney Charles Soechting Jr. said his father was a DPS trooper and he has great respect for the agency. "But in this instance they have completely failed the citizens of Texas," Soechting said.
Soechting said a records request to DPS produced no policy that allows for cavity search of any suspect in public.
"What we're dealing with is a Class C misdemeanor. It does not justify any type of pat-down, let alone an invasive search of cavities of women," he said.
DPS has not commented on the case.
The women are requesting a trial by jury and are asking for unspecified, compensatory and exemplary damages and interest as well as recovery of attorney's fees and court costs.
The Dallas County District Attorney's office told NBC 5 it has received the case and will refer it to a grand jury this month.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I don't think the woman officer bears as much blame since she was not originally at the scene so may have not had any idea what went on previously or why she was asked to search them. But I agree using the same gloves was disgusting. Exactly the reason a search like this shouldn't have been done on the side of the road.

oh, I think she is just as responsible. Was she under a direct order? Could she have asked the other trooper what the situation was? Could she have used her professional judgment as a cop and a woman to determine if the side of the road was the appropriate place to conduct a cavity search? Would it have been a better decision to take the women into custody first prior to searching them? She may not have been on the scene from the outset, but she should have thought about what she was doing (and OMG the glove thing is just disgusting) or at least what she was about to do and ask herself if that would be considered procedure. Nope, I just don't think so. She is responsible too.