State v. Collins, 245 N.C. App. 288 (Feb. 2, 2016)

aff'd on other grounds, 369 N.C. 60 (Sep. 23, 2016)

In this drug case, the court held, over a dissent, that a strip search of the defendant did not violate the fourth amendment. When officers entered a residence to serve a warrant on someone other than the defendant, they smelled the odor of burnt marijuana. When the defendant was located upstairs in the home, an officer smelled marijuana on his person. The officer patted down and searched the defendant, including examining the contents of his pockets. The defendant was then taken downstairs. Although the defendant initially gave a false name to the officers, once they determined his real name, they found out that he had an outstanding warrant from New York. The defendant was wearing pants and shoes but no shirt. After the defendant declined consent for a strip search, an officer noticed a white crystalline substance consistent with cocaine on the floor where the defendant had been standing. The officer then searched the defendant, pulling down or removing both his pants and underwear. Noticing that the defendant was clenching his buttocks, the officer removed two plastic bags from between his buttocks, one containing what appeared to be crack cocaine and the other containing what appeared to be marijuana. The court held that because there was probable cause to believe that contraband was secreted beneath the defendant’s clothing (in this respect, the court noted the crystalline substance consistent with cocaine on the floor where the defendant had been standing), it was not required to officially deem the search a strip search or to find exigent circumstances before declaring the search reasonable. Even so, the court found that exigent circumstances existed, given the observation of what appeared to be cocaine near where the defendant had been standing and the fact that the concealed cocaine may not have been sealed, leading to danger of the defendant absorbing some of the substance through his large intestine. Also, the court noted that the search occurred in the dining area of a private apartment, removed from other people and providing privacy.

There was dissenting opinion in this case.
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