Five Officers Stop Woman For Missing Sticker, Search Car For Drugs, And Then Give Back Phone After Nude Photos Allegedly Transferred By Officer

pamela-held-nude-photos-2215px-NypdpatchWe have been discussing how police are using pretext stops to search for drugs in many jurisdictions. Pamela Held, 27, of Deer Park, Long Island, has an added gripe against a NYPD officer from Queens. She says that she was pulled for a missing sticker and police used that excuse to search her car for drugs. They did not find anything, but they seized her cellphone, searched it, and she claims that NYPD Officer Sean Christian found revealing images of herself and sent them to himself. She is now preparing to sue the city.

Some states have ruled that a warrant is needed to search cellphones. However, others like California, have allowed such searches upon arrest. Of course, Held was not arrested and the stop was clearly a pretextual stop. Many civil libertarians condemned the Supreme Court in its decision in Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), where it refused to consider whether a stop was clearly based on a pretext in judging the constitutionality of the later search.

Christian, 41, is under an Internal Affairs investigation stemming from Held’s complaint.

He was one of five officers in a van who stopped Held one night because of the absence of an inspection sticker. Why would a team of five officers be patrolling for sticker violations? They weren’t. This has become common since the ruling in Whren after the Supreme Court left all citizens subject to these stops and searches as part of an increasing array of expanded and potentially arbitrary police powers.

When the officers found prescription drugs, they dragged Held and her friend into the stationhouse. They demanded details on their movements that night and Held offered to show text messages showing their movements. Police took the phone while she was processed on misdemeanor drug charges.

Three hours later, she was given an appearance ticket and back her phone. She says that Christian followed her and was telling her how beautiful she is. When she later checked her phone, she found a number with all of her pictures attached. Some 20 nude pictures and five revealing pictures are forwarded. Christian denied forwarding the pictures and said that the number was actually his brother. It is unclear why that improves the situation dramatically since it is indeed his brother. He also denies ever meeting her. However, a secretly recorded call Internal Affairs detectives claim that Christian seemed quite familiar with Held and flirted with Held for 50 minutes.

By the way, the charges against Held and her friend appear headed to a dismissal. Notably, while the department is looking at the photo transfer, it is not of course looking at the pretextual stop, questionable arrest, or the search of the phone.

Source: NY Daily News

38 thoughts on “Five Officers Stop Woman For Missing Sticker, Search Car For Drugs, And Then Give Back Phone After Nude Photos Allegedly Transferred By Officer”

  1. type in injustice everywhere and go to cato institue for updates daily on crimes committed by cops.. for dv abuse go to

    behind the blue wall and then click the links from both sites to go to others and find out what the lms doesnt want us to know about the finest and bravest

  2. Dna tests can be run on the minute sticker scraping debris to see which one of the Christian-Team of Officers scraped her sticker off so Pamela Held could be Held 2 B potentially Held during on-going co-operation…….

  3. Raff,

    I too have a VW van….. Took the middle bench seats out…. But I was up scale….. I had a top unit AC…..

  4. Darren,
    Great perspective. In my college days, I used to drive an old, VW Microbus and while home in Skokie during the summer, the police would regularly stop me and they would always use the excuse that I had a license plate light not working. One time when I was stopped, and while the officer’s partner circled my van shining a flashlight in the windows, I told the officer that I was happy that this rusty vehicle was still running. I was not ever ticketed for the license plate light issue. It was just a pretext to do a visual search of my van.

  5. Kraaken:

    Oddly, I can personally vouch for that Russian joke. When I was at Red Square around 1984 and in line to go into Lenin’s Tomb, a police officer kicked out a guy in my group (presumably because he was wearing clothing they considered disrespectful). He then wandered around Red Square to pass time and got arrested for going into a “restricted area”.

    Also, the way it is with cars, probably 90% of them can be pulled over within a couple of miles of following due to some chippy equipment violation or moving violation. That is where the pre-text stop comes into play. My state (WA) would not allow the traffic stop with these NYC officers as being lawful. In fact, a 5 officer anti-crime unit stopping someone for a inspection sticker would not fly here as it would be considered an illegal pre-text stop.

  6. Allysa J: Right you are. During the days of the old Soviet Union, there was a Russian joke that stated that it was impossible for a citizen to walk across Red Square without committing at least three felonies and five misdemeanors. Looks like we’re headed in the same direction.

  7. Well John, first thing we would need to do is catch one them committing some type of financial indiscretion, like failing to disclose income or a large financial gift given to a family member. Then, we take those falsified financial disclosure forms and…oh wait a minute. Never mind. Yeh, you pretty much need to catch one in the act of murder.

  8. Nal,
    I don’t have a smartphone either, but both my daughter and granddaughter do. After reading this story and others like it, I have decided to buy an encryption app for both of them. There are a number of good encryption apps available.

    This sort of thing is exactly why I have a flip phone with no fancy features. It will take pictures, but the only two pictures on it are of a motorcycle for sale that I emailed to a relative who was in the market to buy one. If I do ever decide to get a smart phone, it will have a strong password and 128 bit encryption. And if I ever take any videos or photos with it, it will upload in real time to the Cloud, making it impossible for a third party to delete anything by taking the SIM card.

    Here is a link to some up-to-date reviews for apps. I note the top-rated one is Kapersky. My son tells me that is a good one for both smart phone and portable computer devices, because it meets the very stringent HIPAA requirements for encoding patient data.

  9. So HOW do we impeach the Supreme Court and get rid of incompetent members?!?

    They have made a LOT of bad calls lately….a LOT!!

  10. I have to agree, though we don’t have all the information here, that the only violation committed here by the police was the sending of the nude photos, which is outrageous in itself.

    There is mention of the drugs being prescription drugs. Yet there might still be a crime involved with these since it it illegal to possess prescription drugs that are not prescribed for the individual (or other excptions such as caretakers or medical personnel) Oxycontin and others are widely abused hence the statute. That said this is a statute that most people can at some time be guilty of, such as borrowing the car and the mother has meds in the glove box or such). WA even has a law that makes it a misdemeanor to place prescription meds in a container that lacks the prescription label. So technically those prescription med pillboxes that are labeled for each day a week for people to take their dailys are illegal. Silly, but nobody I have heard of has ever enforced it.

    As for the officer who is alleged to have mailed his brother the nudie photos, he’s in hot water over that for sure. I wonder if he might claim the woman here consented to the police searching the phone to show that she was at her friends’ house? But it’s not going to fly with sending them out to others.

  11. In NYS driving without an inspection sticker is not a criminal offense, although one can be given a traffic ticket. It is such a minor offense that if you can take your car in for inspection the next day and bring that to court the fine will not be imposed in almost all cases. You are normally told that by the police. They had no probable cause to search the van, find the drugs and arrest this woman. Officer Christian’s further action were only the icing on a rotten cake, to use a bad analogy.

  12. “She says that she was pulled for a missing sticker and police used that excuse to search her car for drugs. They did not find anything, but they seized her cellphone, searched it, and she claims that NYPD Officer Sean Christian found revealing images of herself and sent them to himself.” (Jonathan Turley)


    While I agree with the article and much of what’s been said in the comments, the following should be noted:

    “The cops found prescription drugs in the car, so the officers, including Christian, hauled Held and her pal to the stationhouse.

    When cops began grilling her about her whereabouts that night, Held told them she was visiting a friend and had text messages to prove it. She gave one officer the security code to open her phone and pointed out the messages. Then police left the room, with the phone, while she was processed on misdemeanor drug charges.”

    And what Ken said, with the exception of “suspended with serious education.” The “officer” needs to be fired. Period.

  13. A smart phone app that gives an extra level of security to private data would make the developer a lot of money. Such an app probably exists, I just don’t have a smart phone.

  14. Some things never cease to amaze me….. now, what is/are the actual damages…… I think that they, the cops know these are hard to prove and will proceed…..full speed ahead…. damn the torpedo’s……

  15. Five bored adolescents out looking for something to do, a severe lack of understanding of just who becomes a police officer, why passing a few week course and getting a badge and a gun does not equal maturity and wisdom, why the police department must be constantly educated, monitored and held accountable. This officer has violated an individual’s basic rights. Even if she consented it doesn’t change the level of stupidity of the officer. This person is carrying a gun and out there. How will he respond when the situation is truly serious. He should be either fired or suspended with serious education.

  16. Nice racket the government has–enact enough laws that most people are bound to be in violation of at least one and then use that violation as a pretext to conduct otherwise illegal searches and detentions. And, almost always it’s in furtherance of the war on drugs. End the war on drugs and we’ll end a huge force driving the erosion of our civil liberties. Our courts are not going to put an end to police abuse, so it’s up to the citizenry to demand action from our representatives.

    Also, stories like this always make me think police misconduct is like cockroaches. For every one you notice, there’s probably hundreds in hiding.

  17. We complain to each other, but what good does that do?

    Cop abuses (abetted by the judiciary) increase and there are no consequences to those cops.

    Sometimes the responses in blogs feels like mental masturbation, fun but ultimately futile.

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