American Journal of Law & Medicine

Constitutional law: search and seizure, scope of protection.

Constitutional Law: Search and Seizure: Scope of Protection--Ferguson v. Charleston(1)--The United States Supreme Court held that a state hospital's performance of a diagnostic test to obtain evidence of a patient's criminal conduct for law enforcement purposes is an unreasonable search if the patient has not consented to the procedure.(2) The Court acknowledged the state's interest in using the threat of criminal sanctions to deter pregnant women from using cocaine, but determined that this interest does not justify a departure from the general rule that an official nonconsensual search is unconstitutional if not authorized by a valid warrant.(3) Petitioners, women who received obstetrical care at the hospital and who were arrested after testing positive for cocaine, sued respondents, the City of Charleston, law enforcement officials who helped develop the policy and the Medical University of South Carolina ("MUSC"), alleging that the warrantless and allegedly nonconsensual drug tests were unconstitutional searches. …

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