The night of June 21, a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over 21-year-old Charneshia Corley for running a stop sign near Ella and Barren Springs. The deputy asked Corley to get out of her car when he thought he smelled pot.
According to what Corley told Channel 13 this week, she was handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car while the deputy searched for weed. Finding nothing, he called for a female deputy, who showed up on the scene and searched Corley, told her to pull down her pants and, as Corley put it, “force[d] her hand inside of me.”
Corley was ultimately charged with resisting arrest. She tells Channel 13 she simply hesitated when the deputy ordered her to pull down her pants to commence the roadside body cavity search. The criminal complaint filed with the Harris County District Clerk by a deputy R. Pierre Prevent doesn't give much more information, saying Corley “push[ed] R. Pierre with his hip” and “kick[ed] R. Pierre with his foot.” It doesn't appear the deputy got a search warrant before sticking her hand inside Corley.
Corley was ultimately charged with class B marijuana possession; Channel 13 reports that investigators say they found .02 ounces of marijuana during their search (the criminal complaint filed in court doesn't say where deputies eventually found the small amount of pot).
Should officers be allowed to conduct roadside body cavity searches if they claim they smell something skunky during a traffic stop?
Last year, a north Texas state trooper pleaded guilty to two counts of official oppression over a 2012 traffic stop that in some ways mimics Corley’s. Trooper David Farrell claimed he smelled pot when he pulled over Angel and Ashley Dobbs on the George Bush Turnpike, so he called out a female trooper to search the women.
Dash-cam footage shows Trooper Kelly Helleson arriving on scene and sticking her hands inside both women’s pants as cars whiz by; Angel and Ashley Dobbs claim Helleson didn’t even change gloves between body cavity searches. The women sued the Texas Department of Public Safety, which settled for $185,000 in 2013. Helleson eventually pleaded guilty to official oppression and was given probation.
Following the 2012 incident, DPS claimed it implemented a new policy that bans cavity searches without a warrant.
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So it’s unclear why Jennifer Stelly would have a similar encounter in March 2013, when state trooper Joel Gonzalez stopped her and her boyfriend as they drove back from Surfside Beach. Claiming he smelled a “strong odor of marijuana,” the trooper asked both Stelly and her boyfriend to step out of the car. The trooper eventually found a small amount of pot in Stelly’s purse and in the vehicle, all of which Stelly’s boyfriend claimed was his. Still, Stelley had already admitted, “Yes, we smoked awhile ago and it was in the car.”
As her boyfriend was being cuffed and read his rights, troopers on scene still wondered whether Stelly might be hiding more pot. Instead of using his radio to call for backup, Gonzalez used his cell phone to call trooper Jennifer Bui out to the scene. In a lawsuit filed in federal court last December, Stelly claims Bui stuck her hand in her pants and used her fingers to penetrate her anus and vagina on the side of the road, in broad daylight, as cars passed by.
Corley, who was stopped and probed by Harris County Sheriff’s deputies this summer, says she plans to file a complaint with HCSO’s internal affairs division and has retained an attorney, who claims the roadside body cavity search violated Corley’s constitutional rights.
We reached out to HCSO spokesman Ryan Sullivan to see if HCSO has any policy on warrant-less roadside body cavity searches. We’ll update if and when we hear back.