PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The public restrooms at SW Ankeny and Park serve the public in downtown, but what if a known drug user runs inside to hide his contraband from officers?
“I think if they’re public restrooms, that [access] should include cops,” said resident Katie Hill. “They’re part of the public.”
Not so according to an Oregon appeals judge.
The judge’s opinion on restroom privacy cited a case involving known drug user Marvin Lee Holiday. In 2010 Holliday ran into the restroom on SW Ankeny and Park while being chased by police.
He locked the bathroom door, but police got a city key, opened the door and made the arrest. But the evidence they collected — a glass pipe with cocaine residue, according to the Associated Press — could not be used as evidence and the case was overturned.
The Oregon Appeals judge, citing “bastion of privacy,” said cops can’t barge into a locked private stall.
“Is it reasonable to expect when you’re in the bathroom that no one is going to barge in,” said Tung Yin, a Lewis & Clark law professor.
But Yin cautions criminals that this judicial opinion does not mean they’re protected in a bathroom.
An officer still can get into a restroom under extenuating circumstances. Take for example the 2012 case of a sex-offender sexually abusing and assaulting a 10-year-old boy in a Northeast Portland Wendy’s Restaurant restroom.
The suspect was arrested immediately.
“I don’t think [the] long-term impact of this opinion says to the bad guy ‘Run into the bathroom; do what you want,'” Yin said.
Instead, take it as a sign that the Oregon justice system believes everyone in Oregon has a reasonable expectation to restroom privacy.
“What if my pants were down,” one person told KOIN 6 News. “It’s embarrassing.”
Multnomah County prosecutors will decide whether to retry Holliday’s case.
– The Associated Press contributed some information used in this report.