New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CASTRO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-010-005, Claim No. 109748


Pro se claimant failed to establish any claim for which money damages may be awarded. She contended that she was accused of illegal drug use when she was refused admission to a correctional facility after testing positive to an ion scan. The Court found the correction officers acted appropriately.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
January 29, 2007
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant seeks damages for purported injuries she sustained on June 14, 2004 when she went to Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing Sing) to visit her husband who was incarcerated.
Claimant testified that she and her two infant grandchildren had cleared the metal detector at Sing Sing and then Correction Officer Otis Johnson asked claimant to submit to an ion scanner test.
Claimant tested positive for the presence of cocaine and was therefore advised that she had to leave the facility and could not visit her husband that day.
Claimant maintains that she was wrongly accused of using drugs and that Johnson was unprofessional and grabbed her grandson. She also claims that Johnson falsely signed the test result form. Claimant testified that she has been traumatized by the event and that her grandchildren were terrified. Claimant seeks one million dollars to compensate for her ordeal. However, at her examination before trial, claimant testified that she did not want money; she just wanted to clear her name. Claimant now asserts that she has changed her mind.
Correction Officer Otis Johnson testified that, on June 14, 2004, he and Correction Officer Alston were assigned to the ion scanner team. Alston was assigned to operate the machine and Otis was responsible for randomly selecting visitors for testing. A third officer on the team completed the paperwork. The machine detects a subject’s contact with illegal drugs. The test does not determine whether the subject has used drugs and a positive test result is not an accusation of drug use. The machine is checked and calibrated to the area and tested by the correction officers before it is used on any subjects. Johnson testified that before beginning the test on a selected visitor, he would explain the nature of the test and then the visitor would be afforded the opportunity to refuse to be tested. Claimant did not refuse to be tested. Otis then tested claimant’s palms, pockets and shoes by passing over those areas with a wand that had a cotton swab at the end. Alston then placed the swab in the machine and it indicated a positive result for cocaine. Pursuant to Sing Sing’s procedure, a photograph of claimant was taken and the test was repeated. The second test again resulted in a positive finding for the presence of cocaine. Contrary to claimant’s testimony, Johnson testified that he followed all Sing Sing directives and Johnson maintained that he never touched claimant’s grandson. Claimant was not accused of using drugs and was allowed entry to Sing Sing on her next visit.
Correction Officer Darrick Alston testified that he has been employed by the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) for 23 years and has an Advanced Training Certificate for the Ion Scanner. He explained that the machine is used to deter the entrance of contraband in the facility and has no known health risk. The scanner is able to detect up to 15 different narcotics and is calibrated to avoid levels indicating casual contact. Visitors are chosen randomly by a numeric system, and if they refuse the test, then they are denied entry into the facility for 48 hours.
On June 14, 2004, Alston was the operator of the machine so his name was written on the test result form (Ex. 2) by the correction officer responsible for the clerical tasks. Based upon the ion scanner receipt, Alston testified that claimant had twice tested positive for cocaine on June 14, 2004 (Ex. A). Alston followed Sing Sing’s directives for visitors and use of the ion scanner (Exs. F, G) and neither claimant nor her grandchildren were mistreated.
Upon consideration of all the evidence, including listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that claimant has failed to establish any claim for which money damages may be awarded. Rather, the Court finds that the correction officers acted appropriately and in accordance with their assigned duties. Additionally, contrary to claimant’s contention, a positive ion scan is not an accusation of illegal drug use.
Defendant’s motion to dismiss, upon which decision was reserved, is now GRANTED.

January 29, 2007
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1].Claimant acknowledged that she was aware that Sing Sing randomly did ion scanning tests on visitors entering the facility.
[2].Claimant was denied access for only 48 hours and returned two weeks later for visitation.