Search And Seizure - Application To Bodybuilders In Brief


Community Veteran
by Grendel

This article does not constitute legal advice and it should not form the basis of any course of action. In all cases, consult with a duly accredited and licensed attorney in your state to determine the specifics of the law as applied to you (in your State). Neither the author nor the publisher intends this article to be anything but published for entertainment and educational purposes and affirm once again that this chapter is not offering legal advice.

Occasionally I get questions about legal issues that might arise if a bodybuilder was attempting to hide steroids in certain places or under what circumstances a bodybuilder could be searched for steroids. As a law student, I know how difficult it is to give any solid answers to these questions and I also know it is unwise to attempt to give so-called bright line explanations to what are always tricky legal issues. The first advice I could give someone who did not want to get into legal trouble over steroids was to obtain a doctors prescription for their steroids and to adhere to the laws governing the use and import of controlled substances. Having said that, I will endeavor to sketch out a brief vision of some legal scenarios involving bodybuilders and steroids. For a more in-depth treatment of this subject, I would refer you to an article I wrote and is published by Par Deus at

The Applicable Constitutional Provision: A Brief Introduction
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides,

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This is the paramount amendment when it comes to your rights of privacy and it is your best defense against police actions and intrusions. The Fourth Amendment applies to searches and seizures of property and to the arrest of persons. Having said that, I will attempt to answer some hypothetical questions posed by issues surrounding bodybuilders. To answer these questions I will rely primarily on the Fourth Amendment and applicable case law (federal and the laws of several states as needed)

Some Legal Problems Examined

Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids in his locker at the gym.

You have no expectation of privacy outside the home. For you to get Fourth Amendment protection in a particular situation, two tests must be satisfied:

1. You must show an actual, subjective, expectation of privacy; and

2. Your expectation must be one that society recognizes as being "reasonable."

In this context, you are not on your own private property. The owner of the gym can allow police to search your locker without your permission. Just because you put a lock on the locker doesn't not mean you have established any 4th Amendment protection against a search.

It is not advisable to keep any contraband in your locker at the gym or any public place.

Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids in plain view in his home.

If you expose something to plain view – visible to a member of the public from a public area (the road outside your home) – then you have surrendered your expectation of privacy. A police officer would not need to obtain a search warrant to look inside your home from a public area (they can even use binoculars, helicopters, and in some cases sense enhancing devices like parabolic microphones and thermal imagers). Based on what the officer observes a valid search warrant could be issued. This is another bad idea.

Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids in his refrigerator.
Assuming the refrigerator was in your house and not visible from area accessible by the general public, you would have some degree of privacy. However, if you share the refrigerator with another person (probably not a family member) you should be careful. A police officer would not need to obtain a separate warrant to search your refrigerator as they might have to do with a locked box (such as a safe).

Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids in his car's glove compartment.
If the glove compartment is locked, it might be considered a separate search for the purposes of a warrant. If you are stopped in your car for a traffic offense, the police officer does not generally have probable cause to search your car unless you have given some indication you might have drugs or a weapon on board. They can hold you until a search warrant arrives, which they may do. If you must transport steroids in your car, put them in a locked safe box in your trunk. If you have passengers in your car, or you are a passenger (with contraband) in another person’s car remember that:

As a method of protecting officer safety, the officer may demand that the passenger step out of the vehicle.
Also as a matter of protection, if the officer has a reasonable fear that the passenger may be armed or dangerous, he may frisk and pat-down the passenger, to make sure that the passenger is not carrying a weapon.
Finally, if the officer has the right to search the vehicle, he may as noted above also search any container in the car that might contain the thing being looked for, even if the officer knows that the container belongs to a passenger, and even if the officer has no probable cause to believe that the container contains that thing.

Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids in his car's passenger seat.
This is a variation on the plain view concept I discussed earlier. If the police officer stops you lawfully and observes that you have contraband on your seat, they are covered under the plain view doctrine. Remember that this occurs if the police officer has a right to be in the position to see the object – if the police officer were to trespass on to your private property to peer into your car window, then it might be an illegal search because they had no right to be in the position necessary to view the illicit article.
Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids under the driver's seat.
I would consider this less secure then the glove compartment example because there is no illusion of a separate space; a general search warrant would certainly permit officers to look under your seat.

Scenario: You are with a bodybuilder who has steroids on his person.
This is a tricky question. If you are in the company of a convicted felon, police officers may be able to search you as well as your friend. Generally speaking however, you would not in trouble if you were in the company of someone who had drugs on them, unless the circumstances are such where it could be inferred you were arranged to purchase the drugs or engage in some other sort of criminal activity. The officer may "stop" the suspect only if he has a "reasonable suspicion, based on objective facts, that the individual is involved in criminal activity." But a fairly modest amount of suspicion will be enough for a brief stop.

Scenario: A bodybuilder had steroids in his pockets.
If a police officer stops you for a valid reason (a valid suspicion or for some other offense) they may conduct a brief pat down to feel for weapons. If the officer can feel something that could reasonably be contraband (a weapon, syringe, drugs, etc) then they can search you further under an analogy to the plain view doctrine. Again, this depends on the reason the officer was in a position to frisk you; the officer must be legally in a position to frisk you!

Scenario: A bodybuilder has steroids concealed in his socks. Underwear.
This is not much different then the scenario above. If the officer can feel the contraband then you fall under the scenario I discussed previously. Obviously the officer probably cannot strip search a suspect under a legal theory like the Terry stop (permits an officer to pat down a suspect to casually check for weapons).

Scenario: A bodybuilder's parent lets the police search his home.
If the bodybuilder is a minor then this is not even an issue, the parents would be perfectly within their power to give an officer permission to search the premises. The property owner can always let the officers inspect their property, even if this would run up against the privacy rights of guests (it is up to the guests to take their own precautions to preserve their privacy).

If the third person and the suspect have joint authority over the premises, then the third person’s consent to a search will be binding on the suspect. The key example you are going to see of this type of thing occurs with roommates who share common space, like the kitchen and living rooms. Either roommate may give valid consent to search the common areas and that consent would be binding on the other roommate. But this "joint authority" principle only applies where the third party has authority over the particular area to be searched. One roommate could not give permission for the police to search his roommates’ bedroom and private areas.

Scenario: A bodybuilder's spouse lets the police search his home.
This would be akin to the scenario discussed above.

Scenario: A bodybuilder's landlord lets the police search his home.
This is a potentially complex issue. A lot would depend on the circumstances that lead the landlord to be in contact with the police as well as the nature of the rental agreement. The landlord may be perfectly within his or her rights to enter the house to conduct routine maintain or inspections (with notice perhaps) and if they observe illegal activity, they could certainly report it. Generally, the police would not ask a landlords permission to enter the premises, they would serve a warrant or try to gain entry directly. However, they could certainly speak with the landlord to obtain information that could eventually amount to probable cause. However, on its own, a landlords consent to search the premises will probably not be enough for a valid search.

The landlord may consent to a search of the areas of "common usage," such as hallways and common dining areas. [You typically “own” and are master over even your rental property, providing it is not in the common area and exposed to usage by the whole community]

Scenario: A bodybuilder's roommate lets the police search his home.

If both people are on the lease then either tenant can permit the officers to enter the house. See my discussion of this issue above. But this "joint authority" principle only applies where the third party has authority over the particular area to be searched. One roommate could not give permission for the police to search his roommate’s bedroom and private areas.

Scenario: A bodybuilder's child lets the police search his home.
A minor child probably cannot give valid consent to search the house, although this would depend on the jurisdiction and age of the child in question. Generally, a child cannot give permission to enter the home, but if the child merely lets the police into the front area of the house and the child is generally allowed to admit strangers to that front area, the limited consent will probably be valid and anything the police can see from there will fall under the plain view doctrine.


Well, cut right to the chase huh? The best answer is you cannot hide steroids anywhere. The truth is that the police will always be able to find them with enough time. The key concerns you should have are:

1. Make sure no else can gain access to the drugs. Keep your steroids in a locked box inside your private space (particularly if you live in a rental unit with roommates, parents, or in a dormitory setting).

2. Do not take your drugs into public. If you must travel, keep the drugs inside a locked container at all times.

3. Make sure to dispose of syringes and empty vials (or other paraphernalia) in a secure way; needles in the trash are considered abandoned and your privacy expectation “gets trashed” right along side your used needles.

4. Do not draw police attention to your house or person for other reasons such as speeding, noise complaints, or domestic disturbances. If the police come into your home for any reason, you are not in a good position.

Again, there is no safe way to break the law. There is only a rational risk minimizing approach. The best safety is a valid prescription from a licensed physician, the price of a consultation are a bit steep but you won’t go to jail; do the math! It’s a good decision.