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Hair lacks constitutional protection
By Sherry F. Colb
FindLawexternal link Columnist
Special to CNN.com
Friday, November 19, 2004 Posted: 1:34 PM EST (1834 GMT)
(FindLaw) -- At the end of last month, in the case of Coddington v. Evanko, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that police officers may constitutionally shave large amounts of hair from a suspect's head, neck, and shoulders, without a warrant, probable cause, or any basis for suspecting that the hair would provide evidence of crime.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the people the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. But according to the court, the Fourth Amendment does not apply to hair removal.
In so ruling, the Third Circuit followed its own 1982 precedent, In re Grand Jury Proceedings (Appeal of Mills), which held that taking hair samples from visible parts of a suspect's body does not invade any reasonable expectation of privacy. Such investigation therefore does not qualify as a Fourth Amendment "search."