Sometimes I like to discuss doctrine. Sometimes I like to mention stories. And sometimes, as with this case, what I learn from an opinion may have practical significance to the public at large, so I like to share it.
The lesson from today's case -- one that's definitely worth remembering -- is that if an officer asks you for your consent to search you, and you agree to allow him to pat you down, you've thereby agreed to permit him to touch your junk.
That's purportedly why they start the patdown from the ankle up. So you can alelgedly say "stop" when it gets too personal. Sure, you might think they're going to stop at the upper thigh. But when they go higher, and the cop cops a feel, that's tough for you. You consented. The best you can do at that point is to say: "That's not a gun, officer. Could you please release my privates?" At which point, verily, the (hopefully non-kung-fu grip) shall be released.
A rule that applies not only in airports, but everywhere. And a rule that's going to make me think twice about consenting to a patdown. Even to the nicest of officers. (Except perhaps really nice-looking ones.) Because while I don't want to be rude, and while I don't want to frustrate law enforcement, I generally have a greater desire to avoid being groped by strangers. Including but not limited to strangers with guns.
Judge McKeown expressly doesn't decide whether this holding applies to opposite-gender patdowns. So keep that in mind. Though for many (but assuredly not all) men, at least, I imagine that an opposite-gender patdown might be preferable to the ones Judge McKeown does expressly allow. Homophobia, etc.
So that's a lesson for today. Be careful when you give consent. Because, in this area, we're going to give a pretty broad interpretation to degree that consent takes.
Oh, one more thing. Not something completely relevant to everyone, and not something that you may be able to do much about in any event, but nonetheless interesting.
Here's why the officers decided to track Russell down at his departure gate and pat him down (including his various "packages"):
"Officer Matt Bruch is a Port of Seattle Police Officer assigned as a task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration group at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. On August 12, 2010, Bruch received a phone call from an Alaska Airlines ticket agent reporting that Russell, described as a black male wearing a leather jacket and a large necklace, had paid cash for a last-minute, one-way ticket to Anchorage, Alaska. The Alaska Airlines agent also reported that Russell was traveling alone and did not check any luggage. In light of these circumstances, Bruch was suspicious that Russell might be a drug courier."
Rank the following facts, in order of importance, that likely led to Bruch's suspicion that Russell might be a drug courier:
(1) Russell paid cash for a last-minute, one-way ticket to Anchorage, Alaska.
(2) Russell was traveling alone and did not check any luggage.
(3) Russell was a black male wearing a leather jacket and a large necklace.
Hmmmm. . . .