Search and Seizure: Utah Federal Court Judges Split on Warrantless Doorknob Drug Tests 7/15/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

more...

recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed

SUBSCRIBE TODAY!!!


http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/395/drugknobs.shtml

The Ionscan 400B is a machine that analyzes microscopic particles picked up by wiping a sterile cloth across a surface. Police in Utah have been using the machine to go to people's homes, wipe their exterior doorknobs, and then, if illicit drugs show up, use the evidence found to obtain a search warrant.

In three federal court rulings, Utah judges have split on the legality of the doorknob drug tests, with two judges ruling against them and one okaying them. The most recent ruling came June 30, when US District Court Judge Dale Kimball threw out the test, saying it violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Any drugs on
this doorknob?
In that case, South Salt Lake resident Troy Levi Miller was arrested on methamphetamine charges after a detective swabbed his doorknob and used the results to obtain a search warrant. Police argued that a positive result for controlled substances on a doorknob is evidence that people in contact with drugs touched it and is evidence that drug dealing is going on inside the residence. They did not need a search warrant because the exterior doorknob did not have the same expectation of privacy as the house's interior, they argued.

But Judge Kimball held that an exterior doorknob is part of the private area of a residence and a warrant is required to test it. "A visitor could not turn the doorknob without invading the privacy of the home's occupants -- the only purpose for turning the doorknob is to gain access to the privacy of the home," the judge wrote in a June 30 decision. "A doorknob is not something that is transitory that could be borrowed, taken, or moved to another location... It is a component part of the home."

Late last year, Salt Lake City US District Judge Tena Campbell ruled in the opposite direction, holding that the test reveals nothing about a home's interior, but leaving unanswered the question of how a test that reveals nothing about what is going on inside a house can be the basis for a search warrant of that house. She also compared the Ionscan test to having a drug dog sniff for drugs. The Supreme Court ruled last year that a drug dog search was not a search.

But Campbell is the only one of four judges who have considered Ionscan doorknob cases to uphold them. Judge Kimball was joined in throwing them out by Salt Lake City US District Court Judge Ted Stewart last August. In the only other appeals court case on the subject, from the Virgin Islands in 1999, a judge there threw out the drug screen saying it violated the Fourth Amendment.

But with judges in the same courthouse in the same city coming down with differing opinions, this is an issue that appears headed for the US appeals courts and possibly the Supreme Court.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #395 -- 7/15/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

more...

recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed

SUBSCRIBE TODAY!!!

DRCNet Interview: California Medical Marijuana Provider Bryan Epis | Feature: California's "Treatment Not Jail" Law Faces New Attack from Old Foes | Feature: Bush Drug Budget Cuts for HIDTA, Task Force Grants Look to Be Restored | Feature: Much Ado About Lollipops -- Marijuana-Flavored Candy, Hemp, Politicians, and the Media | Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Medical Marijuana: California Activist Facing Federal Prison Time Commits Suicide, Commemorative Vigils Set for Tuesday | Medical Marijuana: ACLU, DPA Threaten to Sue Schwarzenegger Over Suspending California Medical Marijuana Program | Mad Science: House Committee Approves Mycoherbicide Testing in Bid to Wipe Out Drug Crops | Marijuana: Western Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Say Decriminalize It | Sentencing: House Judiciary Committee Head Interferes in Drug Case, Demands Longer Sentence | Search and Seizure: Utah Federal Court Judges Split on Warrantless Doorknob Drug Tests | Drug Raids: Two Unarmed Men Killed in Separate Drug Raids | Latin America: Coca Leader Poised to Become Bolivia's Next President | Announcement: Scholarships Available to Drug Policy Reform Conference in Long Beach This November | Web Scan: Prison Smoking Ban, Patrick Crusade, Licensing Poppies, BlogCritics Book Review | Job Opportunity: Deputy Director of Communications, Drug Policy Alliance, NYC | Short Term Job Opportunity: Marijuana Policy Project Web Site Transition Specialist | Errata: Brazil Harm Reduction | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]