Fourth Circuit Rules Public Strip Search Violates Fourth Amendment

It used to be that the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was the most conservative federal circuit in the nation. However, as reported last year, recent appointments have resulted in a more liberal court whose decisions are often useful in suppression hearings in both state and federal courts. As a criminal defense attorney on the Eastern Shore, it is no longer enough to just keep up with Maryland state cases. A successful lawyer must also stay abreast of decisions of the Fourth Circuit as well.

Last month, for instance, in the case of United States v. Edwards, No. 10-4256 (4th Cir. Dec. 29, 2011), the court ruled that searching the genital area of an arrestee in public and the act of cutting the drugs from his body using a knife where there was no emergency was unreasonable, both because of the public nature of the search and the danger to the defendant. Because the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, the court ruled that the evidence should be suppressed.

As with most suppression hearings , because the court ruled that the controlled dangerous substances (here, cocaine base) were inadmissible, the government will not likely be able to prove their case for possession with intent to distributeagainst Edwards when the case is sent back for trial.