Warrant needed for urine sample, South Dakota Supreme Court rules

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that police need a search warrant to obtain a urine sample from someone under arrest.

The high court issued the ruling Thursday that said privacy issues outweigh the state’s interest in pursuing evidence. The case involves Hi Ta Lar, who was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for a broken headlight in 2015.

After finding marijuana and paraphernalia in the vehicle, police ordered Lar to provide a urine sample without consent or a search warrant. The urine sample tested positive for methamphetamine. He was arrested, charged with ingestion and eventually sentenced to three years in prison.

Lar appealed, raising the issue of whether law enforcement can demand a warrantless urine sample as a search incident to arrest, the Argus Leader reported.

According to a 1969 decision in Chimel v. California, an officer can search a person when an arrest is made for any weapons that would harm the officer or help the arrestee escape. Officers also can search the individual for evidence that could be tampered with or destroyed.

This week, the high court ruled in favor of privacy concerns over the state’s interest in preserving evidence.

“Although requiring an arrestee to urinate into a specimen container does not involve a physical intrusion into the body, such a search is both more informative and more embarrassing than the breath test,” the ruling stated.


Related: Pulled over by police? Know your rights


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