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Name: People v. Collins
Case #: B160390
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 01/23/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 4/14/04

A visual cavity search of a prison was reasonable and necessary under the totality of the circumstances, and did not violate the prisoner’s Fourth Amendment rights. On the basis of two anonymous notes sent to prison officials regarding the defendant’s alleged possession of drugs, the officials conducted a visual cavity search of the defendant. Prior to entering a no contest plea, the defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the seized evidence and to disclose of the anonymous informant’s identity. Finally he sought Pitchess discovery regarding two of the officers involved in the investigation. The court of appeal upheld the denial of all three motions, noting that while a full body cavity search must be conducted by medical officers under a warrant supported by probable cause, a visual cavity search is permissible under state prison regulations and was reasonable here, given a prisoner’s relatively low expectation of privacy and the prison’s compelling interest in maintaining security. The only standard for such a search is that it be reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. The court declined to consider the motion to disclose the informant’s identity insofar as the issue pertained to defendant’s guilt, as that issue was waived by the no contest plea, but the court did review the sealed portion of the record in connection with the suppression motion and determined that the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion for disclosure. Finally, as to the Pitchess motion, the Court of Appeal held that the matter could be reviewed on appeal after a no contest plea because the Pitchess request was intertwined with the suppression motion. However, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing to review the requested files in camera, because the court found no good cause for the discovery. The two officers whose files were requested were not involved in the visual body cavity search, and the defendant made only general allegations of misconduct against them.