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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No Unconstitutional Search of Officer for Missing Cash

The Seventh Circuit recently ruled in favor of the City of Milwaukee in a lawsuit brought by a police officer who claimed a fellow officer's search of his person was unconstitutional.  Carter v. City of Milwaukee (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2014).  

The facts of this case are somewhat unusual, and the Court spends a lot of time discussing the circumstances surrounding the search of the officer, including the officer's (Carter) physical "condition," which at the time of the search, was affected by the officer's use of Colonix, an over-the-counter colon cleansing product Carter was taking for weight loss. It's not clear what Carter's condition had to do with the case, except that it lead to his request to leave the scene that resulted in the search.

The facts are as follows:  Carter and other officers were executing a search warrant when one of the apartment's residents accused the police of stealing $1,750 of his cash. The commanding officer ordered all officers to remain on the scene.  When Carter, in need of a restroom, asked his supervising officer if he could leave the scene to use the restroom, he was searched for the allegedly missing cash.  No cash was found (on Carter or any other officer). Shortly after the incident, Carter sued the City, claiming he was the subject of an unconstitutional search and seizure.

The district court ruled in favor of the City, as did the Seventh Circuit.  The Seventh Circuit reviewed the standard for unconstitutional searches, finding that Carter had no reason to believe he would be detained or arrested if he had refused to be searched.  Carter had also agreed to the search so he could leave the apartment to use the restroom.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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