January 12th, 2010 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts, CLEAN UP

Bra Search a 'Mere Conversation': Appeals Court Overrules County Judge

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The Oregon Court of Appeals has reversed a Marion County judge who ruled a cop searching a woman's bra was simply part of "mere conversation."

Here's the back story, according to the Court of Appeals ruling:

On Sept. 3, 2006, Dena Idell Mathis of Eugene was at the Oregon State Fairgrounds when the State Police pulled over the car she was riding in for several traffic infractions.

Police arrested the driver. And a state police detective questioned Mathis.

The detective said he was "curious" to see if Mathis had any drugs on her and asked if she would "shake out her bra" — pull it away from her body to see if anything fell out.

Mathis did as she was asked, but nothing fell out. A drug dog called to the scene later found meth in her purse, and Mathis was arrested for possession.

At trial, Mathis' attorney argued the evidence should be thrown out because it resulted from an unlawful seizure.

Prosecutors, however, argued the interaction between Mathis and the detective was a "mere conversation."

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hart agreed with prosecutors that what happened between the detective and Mathis — including the bra-search and calling a police dog — was part of "ordinary social intercourse."

Mathis was convicted March 26, 2007, and sentenced to two months in jail plus one year of probation. But on Dec. 9, 2009 a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals reversed her conviction and sent the case back to circuit court.

The judges wrote that Mathis was certainly seized unlawfully by the time the drug dog was called, and perhaps before.

"No objectively reasonable person in defendant's position would have believed that she was free to leave pending the drug dog's arrival," the judges wrote.

(NOTE: The photo above shows a random woman in a bra and is not meant to depict Mathis.)
 
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