ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT
Jay T. Hirschauer
Cass County Public Defender
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE
Attorney General of Indiana
Joseph A. Samreta
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
MICHAEL S. EDWARDS, )
Appellant (Defendant Below), ) Indiana Supreme Court
) Cause No. 09S02-0112-CR-649
) Indiana Court of Appeals
STATE OF INDIANA, ) Cause No. 09A02-0009-CR-608
Appellee (Plaintiff Below). )
APPEAL FROM THE CASS CIRCUIT COURT
The Honorable Julian L. Ridlen, Judge
Cause No. 09C01-0001-CF-00006
ON PETITION TO TRANSFER
December 18, 2001
We hold that routine, warrantless strip searches of misdemeanor arrestees, even when incident
to lawful arrests, are impermissible under the Indiana Constitution and the United States
Constitution, and that before jail officials may conduct warrantless strip searches of misdemeanor
arrestees detained awaiting the posting of bond, those officials must have a reasonable
suspicion that the arrestee is concealing weapons or contraband.
Factual and Procedural Background
On January 29, 2000, Logansport police officers Fred Rogers and Robert Smith stopped
a maroon station wagon that was being driven approximately ten miles per hour
over the speed limit on a snow-covered road. Smith approached the driver,
Lawrence Walker, and Rogers approached the passenger, Michael Edwards. Smith asked Walker
for identification, and Walker produced a learners permit with his own picture but
bearing the name Michael Edwards. Edwards in the meantime told Rogers that
his name was Michael Edwards and offered a pay stub with that name.
When the officers returned to their squad car to issue a speeding citation,
they realized that both men had given them the same name and the
same date of birth. The officers confronted the two men, patted them
down, and handcuffed them. Edwards apologized for lying, explained that the pay
stub belonged to the driver, and identified himself first as Nigel Smith, then
as Michael Smith. He also gave the officers a second date of
birth, and told them again that the drivers name was Michael Edwards.
Because neither man had a valid drivers license, and because the officers could
not verify the identity of either, the officers decided to transport both to
the Logansport police station. A search of the station wagon, which was
to be impounded, revealed no weapons or contraband. Walker was subsequently arrested
for forgery based on presenting the false learners permit. He was taken
to the Cass County jail, and when he removed his left boot in
the book-in procedure, a small plastic bag containing .14 grams of crack cocaine
was discovered. A search of the squad car used to transport Walker
to the jail revealed twenty-four individually wrapped pieces of rock cocaine totaling 3.10
While Walker was being transported to the jail, Rogers and Detective Michael Clark
continued to interview Edwards at the police station. At some point during
that interview, Rogers placed Edwards under arrest, but the record is silent as
to the reason for the arrest. Edwards then offered to take the
officers to his house to get his birth certificate and prove his identity.
Clark agreed, as long as Edwards would allow officers to search his
home. Edwards relented, and three officers and a police canine conducted the
search. The birth certificate was recovered, but no other contraband was found.
Edwards, still under arrest, was then transported to the Cass County jail.
Jail correctional officer Jerry Denny, who had been present when the cocaine was
discovered in Walkers boot, conducted a strip search of Edwards. A plastic
bag containing seven rocks of crack cocaine weighing 1.12 grams was discovered between
Edwards buttocks, and Edwards was charged with possession of cocaine as a Class
A felony. Edwards filed a motion to suppress the cocaine, arguing that
the police had neither probable cause to arrest him nor a valid search
warrant, so the jailhouse strip search was unconstitutional. The trial court denied
the motion after a hearing. Edwards then moved to set aside the
order denying his motion, and also filed a motion to dismiss the charges
because of insufficient evidence. The trial court denied both motions and, at
Edwards request, certified an interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the
trial court and this Court granted transfer.
Motion to Suppress
Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals characterized the strip search
of Edwards as a search incident to a lawful arrest. We agree
that the police had probable cause to arrest Edwards and did so lawfully.
We also agree that a police officer may conduct a warrantless search
of a person if the search is incident to a lawful arrest.
See Townsend v. State, 460 N.E.2d 139, 141 (Ind. 1984). In such
situations, the search and the arrest must be substantially contemporaneous, and the search
must be confined to the immediate vicinity of the arrest. Id.
The requirement of a contemporaneous search has been interpreted liberally, however, and this
Court has validated searches that do not occur until the arrestee arrives at
a law enforcement facility, as long as the items searched are found on
the person of an arrestee or are immediately associated with his person.
Chambers v. State, 422 N.E.2d 1198, 1203 (Ind. 1981). Thus, the trial
court and the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the strip search of
Edwards could be evaluated as one incident to a lawful arrest.
Both our cases and those of the federal courts place limits on searches
incident to an arrest. The United States Supreme Court has held that
once a lawful arrest has been made, authorities may conduct a full search
of the arrestee for weapons or concealed evidence. United States v. Robinson,
414 U.S. 218, 235 (1973). No additional probable cause for the search
is required, and the search incident to arrest may involve a relatively extensive
exploration of the person. Id. at 227 (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392
U.S. 1, 25 (1968)). Nonetheless, such a search would be unreasonable, and
therefore a violation of the Fourth Amendment standard, if it were extreme or
patently abusive. Id. at 236. In this case, Edwards was strip-searched
when he was processed into the Cass County jail several hours after his
arrest. At that point Edwards had not been charged with any criminal
activity, and the possible charges he faced were all for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses.
We do not believe that routine, warrantless strip searches of misdemeanor arrestees,
even when incident to lawful arrests, are reasonable as both Article I, Section
11 of our state constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the federal constitution
require. There may be misdemeanor charges for which a body search is
appropriate because of the reasonable likelihood of discovery of evidence, but false informing,
without more, is certainly not such a crime. Nor, as explained below,
does the possible discovery of weapons or contraband justify a search of every
incarcerated person. For these reasons, we grant transfer to make clear we
do not agree with the Court of Appeals to the extent it implied
that as a general proposition a routine, warrantless strip search incident to a
lawful misdemeanor arrest is reasonable.
We are unable to determine on this record whether the search was justified
by a concern that weapons or contraband might be introduced into the jail.
In Mary Beth G. v. City of Chicago, 723 F.2d 1263, 1273
(7th Cir. 1983), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that before jail
officials may conduct warrantless strip searches of misdemeanor arrestees detained awaiting the posting
of bond, those officials must have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestees are
concealing weapons or contraband. That decision ruled on a point of federal
constitutional law and found the search to violate the Fourth Amendments ban on
unreasonable searches and seizures. We assume Mary Beth G. was correctly decided
under the Fourth Amendment, but reach the same conclusion under Article I, Section
11 of the Indiana Constitution. To the extent a search is conducted
on the basis of jail security, the indignity and personal invasion necessarily accompanying
a strip search is simply not reasonable without the reasonable suspicion that weapons
or contraband may be introduced into the jail. The dissenting opinion from
the Court of Appeals would require that the reasonable suspicion be connected to
the offense for which the individual was arrested. Edwards v. State, 750
N.E.2d 377, 383 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001). We do not believe the
suspicion need be based on that offense. Some offenses inherently give rise
to a reasonable suspicion that a suspect possesses weapons or contraband. But
irrespective of the offense, the circumstances surrounding the arrest, rather than the offense
itself, may give rise to a reasonable suspicion, and if so the search
The strip search of Edwards was appropriate if the correctional officer who conducted
it had a reasonable suspicion, based upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding
Edwards arrest, that Edwards was concealing weapons or contraband. If a warrantless
search or seizure is conducted, however, the State bears the burden of proving
that the search or seizure falls within one of the well-delineated exceptions to
the rule making such searches per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
Middleton v. State, 714 N.E.2d 1099, 1101 (Ind. 1999). The same applies
under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. State v. Friedel,
714 N.E.2d 1231, 1243 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). Our review of the
denial of a motion to suppress is similar to other sufficiency matters.
Goodner v. State, 714 N.E.2d 638, 641 (Ind. 1999). The record must
disclose substantial evidence of probative value that supports the trial courts decision.
Id. We do not reweigh the evidence and we consider conflicting evidence
most favorably to the trial courts ruling. Id.
Here, it is clear that Denny was present when contraband was discovered on
Edwards cohort, Walker. However, the scant record before this Court includes no
testimony from Denny or other jail personnel, and it is not clear whether
Denny entertained a reasonable suspicion that a strip search of Edwards would reveal
more contraband, or whether he was merely following a routine that dictated an
improper, warrantless strip search of every misdemeanor arrestee. Because the State did
not carry its burden of proving that the warrantless strip search of Edwards
fell within an exception to the warrant requirement, Edwards motion to suppress should
have been granted.
We summarily affirm the other findings of the Court of Appeals and remand
this action to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, SULLIVAN, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.
As explained above, the record is silent as to the reason for
Edwards arrest. Possible charges against Edwards include false informing and/or permitting the
unlawful use of his identification card by Walker, both of which are misdemeanor
offenses. See Ind. Code §§ 35-44-2-2(c) and 9-24-16-12 (1998).