This fall, on a Ted Koppel ABC Special, "Drugs, Crime and Doing Time," William Camacho was seen by millions in the process of being arrested for criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Camacho did not know he was on camera. He was too busy responding to the questions of Detective Sgt. Richard Canale of New York City's Port Authority Police.

Canale, a 16-year veteran of the force, does not intimidate his quarry. A supervisor of the drug interdiction squad, he is polite but persistent in his pursuit of drug couriers -- "mules" -- who transport contraband for a few hundred dollars.

In Camacho's case Canale's suspicions were triggered, he said in court, by the fact that Camacho, waiting for a bus, was pacing nervously. Also, said the detective, Camacho "eyed" people walking through the concourse. These, the detective explained, were the characteristics of a drug courier -- according to Canale's extensive experience.

After 10 minutes of observation, the detective went up to Camacho, who had boarded a bus, and said he would like to ask him a few questions. But, the detective added, Camacho did not have to answer them. Camacho saidthat he didn't mind. He was going to New Bedford, Mass., he said, to visit his mother who had had an accident.

Then the detective asked if he could look into Camacho's travel bag. This time Canale did not say the suspect could refuse. So, Camacho said later -- as shown on the Koppel program -- "I didn't have no choice."

In the bag, Canale found 10 clear plastic bags of marijuana. And after Camacho was arrested, the police found a plastic ziplock bag in his underwear. In it were more than two ounces of heroin with a street value of $16,000.

As Ted Koppel said at this point in the odyssey of William Camacho, he "had just been tipped into the wide mouth of a huge funnel, the New York criminal justice system." Camacho was now facing a Class A felony charge that could put him on ice for 15 years to life.

Patrick Joyce, Camacho's Legal Aid Society lawyer, argued that the detective approachedand questioned Camacho without sufficient cause to warrant the subsequent search. To Koppel, Joyce said: "It's very easy for people in America to sit and say, 'He was guilty anyway. It doesn't matter.' But it does matter, because if you don't start drawing the line where the Constitution exists, the country's going to be in tremendous trouble."

Joyce appeared before a judge in that huge funnel of the criminal justice system who agreed with him. State Supreme Court Justice Budd Goodman was seen and heard very briefly in the Camacho segment of the Koppel program as, at a hearing, he suppressed the evidence found in Camacho's travel bag. Says Koppel: "In Willie Camacho's case, the Constitution kept him out of jail." So far. The prosecution is appealing.

In the New York Law Journal, Justice Goodman's decision was printed in its entirety. Goodman found the testimony of Canale "credible," but said the detective made basic errors in his procedural methods. Canale never gave Camacho a consent form for the search of the bag nor did he advise Camacho that he could keep the bag closed if he preferred.

More fundamental, wrote Justice Goodman, "An officer's mere unscientific guess {hunch} as to a person's propensity to commit crimes, without some objective indication that a crime has taken place or may be taking place, is insufficient to justify inquiry into conduct."

Det. Canale had moved to question and search Camacho on the basis of his observations of the man. But those observations, said the justice, "were subjective in nature and capable of many innocent interpretations." (Camacho's pacing, his eyeing of people walking through the concourse.)

But during the initial questioning, the prosecutor argued, Camacho had not been in custody and was free to leave at any time. That argument, said Justice Goodman, "is frivolous at best... . Although not in custody, the defendant was in the rear seat of {a} bus being questioned by an identified police officer and was clearly the target of an investigation.

"We have a constitutional society here," Goodman told me after he made his decision, "and if we allow the police to search someone's bag without articulable suspicion -- not just a hunch -- we will be moving toward a fascist state."

In a footnote to his decision, Goodman wrote that the Camacho case is "one of approximately 15 similar cases involving Port Authority police ... known to this court." There may well be more, both in New York City and around the country in which evidence from searches triggered only by hunches was not suppressed by judges less sensitive to the Constitution. There is, after all, a war on drugs going on.