State v. Brown, A17-0870

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtTHISSEN, Justice.
Citation932 N.W.2d 283
Parties STATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Guntallwon Karloyea BROWN, Appellant.
Decision Date14 August 2019
Docket NumberA17-0870

932 N.W.2d 283

STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Guntallwon Karloyea BROWN, Appellant.

A17-0870

Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Filed: August 14, 2019


OPINION

THISSEN, Justice.

932 N.W.2d 286

This case requires us to determine whether a body cavity search performed by forcing the appellant to be strapped down and sedated and to undergo an invasive anoscopy against his will was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that forcing appellant Guntallwon Karloyea Brown to undergo an anoscopy against his will and under sedation in the presence of nonmedical personnel is a serious invasion of Brown’s dignitary interests in personal privacy and bodily integrity that outweighs the State’s need to retrieve relevant evidence of drug possession. Accordingly, we reverse the court of appeals' decision. Because we hold that the evidence retrieved from the search must be suppressed, we remand to the district court for a new trial.

FACTS

On August 8, 2015, the Minneapolis Police Department was investigating the sale of crack cocaine by utilizing a confidential informant. The police and the confidential informant set up a controlled buy from Brown. Officers gave the confidential informant buy money and the confidential informant successfully bought a quantity of crack cocaine from Brown. The police later observed Brown perform a hand-to-hand transaction with a third party. After witnessing the transaction, the police arrested Brown for selling drugs.

During the arrest, a police officer witnessed Brown "shoving his hands down his pants, possibly concealing something." After Brown was transported to the station house, officers saw Brown "grinding his buttocks against the seat [of a chair]" in a "back and forth motion," "grinding his cheeks into the chair rail," and "taking his hands and shoving—kind of between his legs, shoving upwards."

The police officer observing Brown had handled "multiple cases where [individuals] conceal narcotics and contraband down their pants," and Brown’s behavior led the officer to believe that he "was attempting to jam narcotics up his rectum." After getting approval from his supervisor, the officer conducted a strip search of Brown. During the strip search, the police "looked between [Brown’s] cheeks" and saw "a clear plastic [b]aggie sticking out of [Brown’s] anus." The officer, believing this baggie contained an undetermined amount of crack cocaine, decided that a body-cavity search was required and applied for a search warrant. The application "request[ed] a warrant to transport Brown to a medical facility and have the baggie removed" from Brown’s rectum. A judge signed a warrant and authorized a search "ON THE PERSON OF BROWN."

The officer took Brown to North Memorial Hospital to remove the baggie. Brown was first given the option of removing the baggie himself. He refused. Officers then presented the warrant to Dr. Christopher Palmer, an emergency-room doctor. Dr.

932 N.W.2d 287

Palmer, after consulting with a lawyer for North Memorial, did an external body search of Brown, including the anal area. Dr. Palmer did not see the baggie. Dr. Palmer offered Brown a laxative to remove the drugs. Brown refused.

The police then asked Dr. Palmer to force Brown to take the laxative. Dr. Palmer refused to do so. Dr. Palmer also refused to perform an anoscopy1 as requested by the police or to call another doctor who might perform the anoscopy. Dr. Palmer refused any interventions beyond the external search because he did not feel that the warrant allowed the procedure. Dr. Palmer did tell the officers that he was "willing to comply with any Court order that specifically designated the appropriate interventions."

After Dr. Palmer refused to perform medical procedures based on the first warrant, the officer who requested the first warrant wrote a more specific warrant and decided to take Brown to a different hospital. The second warrant, signed by the same judge,2 authorized a search of "THE DESCRIBED PERSON" and directed hospital staff to "use any medical/physical means necessary to have Brown vomit or deficate [sic] the contents of his stomach or physically by any means necessary remove the narcotics from the anal cavity so Officers can retrieve the narcotics." (Emphasis added.) The officer testified that he added this language because he is not a doctor and does not know any specific medical terms. He therefore used the phrase "any means necessary" so the doctor could decide how to remove the drugs safely. The police took Brown to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), showed both warrants to Brown, and again requested that he remove the drugs himself. Brown refused.

The police then presented the warrant to Dr. Paul Nystrom, an emergency-medicine doctor at HCMC. Dr. Nystrom spoke with the on-call deputy county attorney from the civil division of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office who advised Dr. Nystrom that he could execute the warrant. Dr. Nystrom gave four options to Brown: (1) Brown could remove the baggie himself; (2) Dr. Nystrom could administer an enema, which would give Brown the urge to defecate; (3) Dr. Nystrom could perform an anoscopy with Brown under sedation; or (4) Dr. Nystrom could sedate Brown, place him on a ventilator, and intubate him with a nasogastric tube through which a laxative could be pumped into Brown’s stomach to clear his bowels. Dr. Nystrom told Brown that the first two options were preferable, but required his cooperation. Brown did not reply.

After speaking with Brown a number of times and explaining the four options, Dr. Nystrom told Brown that he was going to leave the room and begin preparations for the sedation and anoscopy. When Brown further refused to speak, even after being given additional time to consider his options, Dr. Nystrom proceeded to perform the anoscopy. There is no dispute that Brown was of sound mind and could make

932 N.W.2d 288

his own medical decisions and give his own consent to any procedure.

Dr. Nystrom had the hospital staff strap Brown down and place an I.V. to administer a sedative. While sedation was not necessary to perform the anoscopy, Dr. Nystrom felt it should be used "to make [the anoscopy ] less painful, less uncomfortable." There is no suggestion that the sedative was administered because Brown was uncooperative. After moving Brown to a procedure room, Dr. Nystrom placed a speculum into Brown’s rectum and examined his anal cavity. The doctor described the speculum as "not comfortable." Two officers remained in the room and watched the intrusion into Brown’s body cavity. Dr. Nystrom was able to locate the plastic baggie and remove it with a special type of forceps. The forceps is "like a pinchers of some sort that has ... a five- to six-inch arm on it that opens and closes." The doctor gave the baggie to the police, which law enforcement test results later showed held 2.9 grams of cocaine. Dr. Nystrom and the nursing staff did not observe any bleeding, tearing, or abrasions caused by the procedure.

Dr. Nystrom testified that he understood the language used in the search warrant—"any means necessary"—to mean "[a]nything reasonable, any reasonable means necessary." Importantly, Dr. Nystrom testified that "normal elimination" (waiting for the baggie to come out through natural processes) could be used and that no medical emergency existed when the procedure was performed.

Although he was originally arrested for selling drugs, the State ultimately charged Brown with one count of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (2018). Brown moved to suppress the evidence of the drugs at an evidentiary hearing and raised a number of constitutional objections. Relevant to our review here, he argued that the search, even though conducted pursuant to a valid search warrant, was unreasonable. Brown relied on the balancing test announced by the Supreme Court of the United States in Winston v. Lee , 470 U.S. 753, 105 S.Ct. 1611, 84 L.Ed.2d 662 (1985).

In its order, the district court noted that "there is a certain odiousness twisted up with the thought of police using the immense power of the government to literally invade a person’s body," and such "unease is only aggravated when the judiciary paints its imprimatur on this kind of action by sanctioning it with ... a warrant." But, after analyzing the facts using the Winston framework, the district court concluded that despite "the extreme intrusiveness of the police action here ... on balance, the scales tip in favor of allowing the evidence." After a jury trial, Brown was convicted of fifth-degree drug possession under Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1).

Brown appealed his conviction. The court of appeals, after independently evaluating the Winston factors, agreed with the district court that the anoscopy was a reasonable search. State v. Brown , 915 N.W.2d 896, 903 (Minn. App. 2018). We granted Brown’s petition for review.

ANALYSIS

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV ; see also Minn. Const. art. I, § 10.3 "[T]he ultimate

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2 practice notes
  • Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., A-1-CA-36474
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • June 4, 2020
    ...nor does the record reflect that he consulted with anyone other than the officers about the warrant. See, e.g. , State v. Brown , 932 N.W.2d 283, 287 (Minn. 2019) (noting that 495 P.3d 630 the doctor at the first hospital refused a police officer's request to expand the search of the defend......
  • Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., No. A-1-CA-36474
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • June 4, 2020
    ...nor does the record reflect that he consulted with anyone other than the officers about the warrant. See, e.g., State v. Brown, 932 N.W.2d 283, 287 (Minn. 2019) (noting that the doctor at the first hospital refused a police officer's request to expand the search of the defendant suspected o......
2 cases
  • Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., A-1-CA-36474
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • June 4, 2020
    ...nor does the record reflect that he consulted with anyone other than the officers about the warrant. See, e.g. , State v. Brown , 932 N.W.2d 283, 287 (Minn. 2019) (noting that 495 P.3d 630 the doctor at the first hospital refused a police officer's request to expand the search of the defend......
  • Young v. Gila Reg'l Med. Ctr., No. A-1-CA-36474
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • June 4, 2020
    ...nor does the record reflect that he consulted with anyone other than the officers about the warrant. See, e.g., State v. Brown, 932 N.W.2d 283, 287 (Minn. 2019) (noting that the doctor at the first hospital refused a police officer's request to expand the search of the defendant suspected o......

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