The Fourth Amendment protects against government intrusion in the home and provides for a reasonable expectation of privacy. But does this protection extend to the most intimate areas of a person’s body? The case of Brown v. Wisconsin is pending before the Supreme Court and looks at the issue of whether police officers were justified in searching a woman’s vagina and anal cavity without a warrant. The Supreme Court of the United States must grant cert and decide whether the Fourth Amendment protects a person from unreasonable and humiliating searches by law enforcement officers.
What happened in the Brown case?
Sharon Brown is a Native American woman residing in Minnesota. In May of 2017, she was a passenger in her boyfriend’s car following a trip to Wal-Mart. The police stopped the vehicle after learning that her boyfriend allegedly shoplifted from the store. Despite her only being the passenger in the car, the police took her along with her boyfriend to jail and placed her in the holding cell. The jail’s policy allowed manual body-cavity searches without a warrant, probable cause, or exigency. Less than a day after Brown was detained, another detainee told a correctional officer, Steven Hillesheim, that Brown was hiding drugs. This detainee was a know liar and troublemaker. Hillesheim, however, did not investigate the legitimacy of these claims, despite Brown not having a history of drug use and being held in prison for shoplifting, an unrelated claim.