Whenever a baby is born in the state of Alabama, hospital staff working in the newborn nursery will perform a variety of tests that involve several blood draws. Many of these tests are for standard medical reasons, but the hospital staff will also routinely test for the presence of controlled substances in the infant’s blood.
According to a recent news article from AL.com, a mother in Mobile County was arrested after her newborn infant tested positive for cocaine. When the child tested positive, police and child protective services were immediately called to the hospital. Police arrested the child’s mother on charges of child endangerment and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.
There was no mention of where the alleged paraphernalia was located, but police will generally do a search of person and his or immediate possessions in what is known as search incident to arrest. As our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys can explain, the police can justify a search incident to arrest without any additional probable cause, because they claim it is necessary to protect officer safety. The theory is that, if the police are taking a person into custody, they need to know if there is anything illegal or dangerous in order to protect the officers and anyone else with whom defendant will come into contact, including other inmates.
It is important to understand defendant has not been convicted of any crime and is presumed innocent unless and until she is found guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.
Police also may search jackets and other clothing the suspect is no longer wearing, but the United States Supreme Court has said this is allowed pursuant to a search incident to arrest. In addition, police will also be able to justify some searches following an arrest based upon what they call a police inventory search. An inventory search allows them to search a person and their vehicle, if present, during the arrest, so police can inventory defendant’s property under the guise of preventing theft.
While authorities can justify a lot based on these two types of searches, they cannot justify everything, and on many occasions police will overstep their boundaries. Your experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to show the search exceeded their explicit or inherent authority, and everything discovered during the search should be excluded from evidence, as it is fruit of a poisonous tree. This is done through your attorney filing a motion to suppress evidence.
One of the ways to challenge an inventory search is to demonstrate authorities did not follow their own procedures when conducting the search. This is one of the requirements the United States Supreme Court has established for an inventory search. The police must follow a detailed written policy. Often times, they do not follow their own rules.