Ferguson and Others V. City of Charleston and Others Case Brief

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During the fall of 1988, staff members of a public hospital located in the city of Charleston by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) became concerned by “an apparent increase in the use of cocaine by patients who were receiving prenatal treatment.” (Samaha, 2012, p. 252) In response to the increasing number, in April of 1989, MUSC instituted a drug testing policy. Women who came into MUSC that presented suspicion of drug use were subjected to the drug screenings. If the tests were positive, it was reported to police and the women were subsequently arrested. MUSC worked in conjunction with the Solicitor for Charleston in the prosecution of mothers whose children tested positive for drugs at birth. Petitioners were ten (10) women who were arrested after testing positive for drugs. The petitioners filed suit against the City of Charleston and MUSC claiming the practice of warrantless and nonconsensual drug tests for criminal investigatory purposes was an unconstitutional search under the Fourth Amendment. The jury found for the City of Charleston on the theory that the women had consented to the searches. On appeal, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the district court. Procedural History

The petitioners, Ferguson, et. al., filed suit in the District Court for South Carolina, claiming warrantless and nonconsensual searches were illegal and a violation of their fourth amendment rights. Following a jury trial, judgment was entered in favor of the respondents, City of Charleston, et.al., The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 1998 affirmed, but did not address the primary issue of the jury trial, consent. The Supreme Court, grants certiorari, in 2000, and reviews the Circuit Court’s decision on the issue of “special needs,” which was the basis for the decision of the Circuit Court. Issue

Whether the public staff members of Charleston’s Medical University of South Carolina’s drug testing of pregnant women without...
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