Wisconsin Supreme Court OKs Warrantless Laxatation

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On Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that forcing a suspect to drink massive doses of a laxative in hopes of recovering a swallowed bag of heroin was not unconstitutional.  The court of appeals had held that the strategy amounted to an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

A deputy had seen the suspect swallow what looked like a plastic bag, and later an officer watched him swallow six doses of a laxative.  The next day, as the article carefully put it, "officers retrieved the plastic bag," which proved to contain heroin.  The suspect’s attorney moved to suppress the bag and its contents.  The motion was denied but that was reversed on appeal.

Reinstating the conviction, the state high court said that police had a clear expectation that using the laxative would "help reveal" evidence of a crime, and might have been safer for the suspect because it reduced the chances that the bag would rupture.  In a dissent, the court’s chief justice said that at the very least, the officers should have gotten a warrant.

The suspect’s attorney declared the decision a defeat for civil rights.  "The average person walking the streets of Milwaukee, they’d say, ‘Gee, cops shouldn’t be able to do that.’  Now the Supreme Court says go right ahead," said attorney Tim Provis.  He said he was considering an appeal, in which he will presumably ask the U.S. Supreme Court to apply the "what-would-the-average-person- walking-the-streets-of-Milwaukee-say" standard that is typically used to analyze legal problems arising under the Fourth Amendment.

Link: ABC News