INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a police officer overstepped when she touched a woman’s genitals during a drug inspection.
Court documents say Taccasia Porter was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over for a traffic stop in October 2016. An Indianapolis police officer smelled marijuana during the stop.
After an initial search found no drugs, the officer put her hand inside Porter’s underwear and found a marijuana blunt.
A Marion Superior Court had ruled the search was constitutional, the Indianapolis Star reported . But Porter appealed the decision and argued that the trial court incorrectly admitted the marijuana obtained during the search as evidence.
The appellate court wrote that the initial pat-down search was legal, but that the following search violated the federal and state constitutions.
“All of this took place in a public area on the side of a road, with no evidence that any precautions were taken to protect Porter’s privacy from pedestrian or vehicular passersby or the two men on the scene,” the opinion said.
There was also no evidence the officer used plastic gloves as a sanitary precaution, which makes the degree of intrusion significant, Judge John G. Baker said.
Officers must have probable cause to conduct an invasive search, said Jeannine Bell, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington.
The Supreme Court uses a balancing test to evaluate the legitimacy of bodily searches which weighs the scope of the intrusion, the manner the search is conducted, the justification for the search and the place the search is conducted, Bell said.
Courts also consider if an officer is searching for a weapon or contraband, she said.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com