Appeals Court Reinvigorates Man's Strip Search Claim vs. S.F. Cops

Categories: Law & Order
Whether or not the cops can ask you what's in here is a matter the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently mulled over...
A man whom an appeals court ruled should arguably never have been arrested by San Francisco police may also not have deserved to have cops peering down his underwear, according to a federal appeals court.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled in Erris Edgerly's favor back in 2007, determining that police were unjustified for arresting him for, in his words, "just chilling" at the Martin Luther King-Marcus Garvey Cooperative Apartments on Eddy Street back in 2000. Following that '07 ruling, Edgerly's case was remanded back to district court -- where his claims against the city were dismissed.

This time around, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that San Francisco police officers did indeed have probable cause to arrest Edgerly. But, in its Friday ruling, the three-judge panel reversed the district court's dismissal of Edgerley's claim of false arrest -- and also breathed new life into his claim that he never should have been made to drop his shorts. 

After Edgerly was arrested for "just chilling" -- which the court helpfully defines as "just hanging out for no reason" -- his story and the cops' differ. They claim he was given a "routine clothing search." Edgerly, however, says he was asked "to remove his shoes and sockes, pull his pants down to his ankles, and bend over and cough. He also testified that [Officer David] Goff looked inside his boxer shorts before telling him he could get dressed."

Whichever story is true, one thing is for certain: No one found any illegal materials by searching Edgerly.

"Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Edgerly, a reasonable jury could find that the Officers strip searched him," wrote Judge Richard Paez. "According to Edgerly's trial testimony, Officer Goff required him to arrange his clothing so as to permit a visual inspection of his undergarments, by asking him to pull his pants down to his ankles. Edgerly testified that Goff then placed his finger within Edgerly's boxers and 'kind of just looked around.' This would permit a reasonable inference that Goff visually inspected Edgerly's buttocks or genitalia, which would amount to a strip search..."

Since the officers arrested Edgerly only for trespassing -- and not for a matter involving weapons, drugs, or other contraband -- this is problematic, continued the judge. So the 9th remanded the case for some more legal probing.  

H/T   |   Courthouse News

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