TN: Hair follicle test of parents in juvenile court on less than PC was justified by special needs doctrine

The juvenile court here had justification to order a hair follicle test on defendant for drug use because of the high interest in protecting the children. The search was justified under special needs. That ultimately led to his prosecution. State v. Patterson, 2020 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 166 (Mar. 5, 2020):

Accordingly, under the circumstances, we cannot say that significant privacy concerns are implicated. See Skinner, 489 U.S. at 626. Moreover, the welfare concern to the children in this case—that they were being exposed to methamphetamine—was paramount, and therefore, the government’s interest was decidedly increased as were the possible consequences of waiting until there was probable cause for a search and a warrant could be obtained. See Moreno, 203 P.3d at 1011. Balancing the various interests at stake, we hold that the drug screening ordered by the juvenile court in this case, after a finding of probable cause to believe that the children were dependent and neglected specifically referring to the parents’ methamphetamine usage, qualified for the special needs exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, and therefore, the search was reasonable.

Regarding the level of intrusion on the Defendant’s privacy interest, the Defendant reported to RapidCare, a drug-screening center that was described as twenty-four-hour “occupational healthcare service” or “primary/urgent care clinic.” The testing was not performed by a government agency. Furthermore, a hair-follicle sample or nail clipping is not extraordinarily invasive when compared with urine or blood specimens. Hair and nail samples can be obtained without piercing the skin and may be conducted safely outside a hospital environment and with a minimum of inconvenience or embarrassment. See Skinner, 489 U.S. at 625.

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