Can you search an unconscious person’s property for their ID?
Generally, we cannot search people for identification if they’re only being detained. They do have to identify themselves. They don’t have to physically provide an ID, but if they fail to identify, then that has legal consequences. Searching them for their ID is a different story.
Now what about the person who is unconscious?
Can we search them for their ID?
Generally, the answer is, “yes.” We can search them under community caretaking.
The Nevada search and seizure book is a really good resource for stuff like this. I have a chapter on page 212 that’s called “Cause of injury searches.” That’s what I call them.
You’re allowed to conduct limited cause of injury searches in order to assist the person with their medical care, for them to get medical treatment. The Doctrine really falls under a subset of community caretaking; those things which are non investigatory to help render life saving measures.
Do you think that having their ID can help provide medical care? The answer generally is “yes,” because you can provide information to Medical, and they can run that person in their database. Maybe this person has been to the hospital before, there are known allergies, there are known medications and a prior history that can help render care.
Also, maybe this person needs medicines. Maybe if you search their purse while they’re unconscious, and you see that they have medicines, that is something that Medical wants to know as well.
Now, what happens if you find plain view evidence as you’re doing this? Well, as long as the court believes that searching the person for their identification, medicines, medical alert bracelet and so forth was objectively reasonable, meaning that you did have a reason for doing it, then the evidence found in plain view is coming in.
However, if you did not justify why you were doing it, then the evidence is not coming in. So you do have to at least justify that there was a community caretaking rationale. Remember, community caretaking is not for criminal investigations. It’s really a way to help people. So that’s the motive here.
However, if you find plain view evidence, then it has consequences. You can use that evidence against them.
I hope this has helped you get it right every single time. Keep the questions coming in and stay safe.