MD: Strip search incident to arrest was valid on balance on this record

On this record with a wealth of reasonable suspicion and then probable cause, a strip search incident to arrest was justified at the police station in the breathalyser room. Defendant stripped and bent over but refused to spread his cheeks. Still, the officer could see a baggie peeking out of defendant’s anus and removed it. Williams v. State, 2016 Md. App. LEXIS 1464 (Dec. 2, 2016):

The facts of this case are much closer to Harding, supra, than to Nieves, supra. At the time of the arrest, appellant was nervous and had a large sum of cash on his person. The sergeant had extensive knowledge of appellant and his drug dealing: he had information from two sources that appellant sold heroin; the sergeant was involved in two recent traffic stops of appellant where a K-9 had given positive alerts but no drugs were found; and the sergeant had recently discovered drug paraphernalia on appellant’s person. Additionally, CI#3, whom the sergeant had been working with, and had daily contact with for over a month, informed the sergeant that appellant would be making drug drops upon leaving a certain area at a certain time. When we take into consideration the modes or patterns of certain kinds of drug dealings, and weighing all the information as understood by someone versed in law enforcement, we are persuaded that this is not a situation where the sergeant had an “unparticularized suspicion or hunch” but where the sergeant had reasonable articulable suspicion to justify the strip search.

Weighing the Bell v. Wolfish, supra, factors, three of the factors weigh in favor of the State — the manner in which the search was conducted, where the search was conducted, and that the search was justified — and only one factor — the intrusiveness of the search — weighs in favor of appellant. Taking into account the relative strength of each factor and balancing the need to ferret out crime against the invasion of personal rights, we are persuaded that the strip search here was reasonable and legal.

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