No Reasonable Suspicion For Officer’s Drug Test

John Richard was employed as a police officer with the City of Lafayette, Louisiana. He also worked security for Club 410, a bar located in downtown Lafayette. Also employed at Club 410 were Jason Galatas, another Lafayette officer, and Jason Segal.

Segal told Galatas that his roommate had a large amount of marijuana in the apartment he shared with Segal, and that Galatas and Richard should stay away from the apartment. Galatas relayed the information to the Department’s narcotics squad, but also said that he was unwilling to become involved because he had heard that this was the location where a fellow police officer was getting steroids.

Members of the narcotics squad went to the apartment to secure it while waiting for a search warrant. While they were at the apartment, Richard called a corporal on the narcotics squad saying that a friend had called and that he had seen plainclothes police officers at the apartment. Richard asked the corporal what was going on, and the corporal told him he should get in touch with a major. The major told Richard that they were conducting a marijuana investigation at the apartment.

After obtaining a search warrant, the officers searched the apartment and found between 20 and 25 pounds of marijuana, a number of bottles of steroids, and drug paraphernalia. The Department ordered Richard to submit to drug screening. When Richard tested positive for steroid use, the Department terminated him. Richard then challenged his termination, alleging that no reasonable suspicion existed for his drug test.

The Louisiana Court of Appeals agreed. The Court noted that the City’s only justification for the drug test was that Richard had made the phone calls, “involving himself in an unofficial capacity in the drug raid,” and that “his association with the residents of the apartment gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that he was a drug user.” The Court found, however, that Richard’s behavior did not “suggest drug use or abuse, possession of drugs or related items, or a reliable tip. No substantial investigation was conducted before ordering Richard to submit to the test, and there is no suggestion that his behavior suggested drug use. No evidence was introduced suggesting any other incident, action, or pattern of behavior during Richard’s tenure as a police officer which suggested that he might be a drug user. The guidelines set forth in the Department’s manual do not provide for reasonable suspicion based on guilt by association or a single instance of bad judgment.”

Richard v. Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board, 2008 WL 1733100 (La.App. 2008).

This article appears in the June 2008 issue