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Consent — Acquiescence — Strip Search

State v. Charles A. Wallace, 2002 WI App 61
For Wallace: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether Wallace voluntarily consented, or merely acquiesced, to a strip search following arrest for a minor traffic violation.

Holding:

¶19. The police made their request during the booking process and before Wallace’s bond had been posted. We concur with the circuit court’s conclusion that thirty minutes, devoted as it was to legitimate custodial activities, does not represent an unreasonably lengthy period of custodial detention so as to vitiate the voluntariness of Wallace’s consent. The record before us contains no evidence that police created a coercive atmosphere in order to obtain Wallace’s consent, nor is there any evidence that they misrepresented their purpose or authority in making the request to search. See, e.g., Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543, 548-49 (1968) (where consent to search a home was obtained as a result of a police officer’s false claim of lawful authority, that consent is invalid). Furthermore, there is no evidence, nor does Wallace contend, that the officers used force, threats or coercion to obtain Wallace’s consent to the search.

¶21. Wallace also contends that he was not specifically asked if he would consent to the search but was told that the police ‘would like [him] to consent to a strip search.’ The trial court specifically found, however, that ‘[t]he Police asked Wallace if he would consent to a strip search’ (emphasis added). This finding is supported by testimony at the suppression hearing that an officer ‘asked [Wallace] specifically if he would allow us to strip search him, if he would consent.’

¶22. Finally, in considering Wallace’s personal characteristics, we are not persuaded that his age (twenty) and his having a ‘minimal prior record’ rendered Wallace particularly vulnerable to police intimidation, and therefore susceptible to consenting against his will, as he argues. Wallace presented no evidence that he lacked education or was cognitively deficient. Neither does it appear that Wallace was particularly anxious or frightened by his circumstances. Wallace did not testify at the suppression hearing, but the police noted Wallace’s demeanor as being ‘calm’ in the arrest report following his strip search.

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