Evidence Can Be Considered Even With Violations of Strip Search Statute

Wisconsin case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Strip search.

State of Wisconsin v. Jimmie G. Minett. WI strip search

Wisconsin Statute 968.255 specifies the procedures that must be followed when Wisconsin law enforcement officers perform a strip search. Among other things, the statute requires that such searches be authorized by the police chief or his designee, that the officers give the suspect a copy of a report, and that the search not be conducted in the view of others.

Jimmie G. Minett was strip searched at the police station, and heroin was discovered on his person. He alleged that the statute had been violated because he was not immediately given a copy of the required report, that one of the officers involved in the search was described as a "witness" on the report, and that the chief had never given the required authorization. Minett then moved to have the evidence excluded from his subsequent prosecution. The Walworth County Circuit Court, Judge James L. Carlson, held that there might have been some "hyper-technical" violations of the statute. It held that one officer's being described as a "witness" did not mean that the search had been conducted in view of others. And even if the chief hadn't signed, or the report wasn't properly delivered, there had been substantial compliance with the law, and the evidence would not be excluded. Minett subsequently pleaded guilty, but reserved the issue of the search for later appeal.

The Court of Appeals quickly dealt with the issue. It looked at the statute and concluded that nothing in it called for suppression of evidence. Since there was no constitutional violation, the possible minor violations of the statute did not require that the evidence be excluded.

The Court of Appeals also examined Minett's sentence and concluded that the trial court had acted within its discretion. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court.

No. 2013AP634-CR (Wis. Ct. App. Mar. 19, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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