An important ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court came down this month regarding strip searches in jails. The plaintiff in the case challenged a jail’s right to strip search everyone
booked into their facility. He had been mistaken for another person, and was arrested on a misdemeanor warrant. When entering the jail he was strip searched.
The plaintiff argued that strip searching everyone coming into a jail without any individualized suspicion violates the constitution. The jailers argued that it is necessary to strip search everyone to prevent weapons and contraband from entering the general population.
The Court sided with the jailers. It decided to leave it to the discretion of the jailers to decide the necessity of strip searching. This means that the sheriff in the county you are arrested can decide to subject you to the indignity of a strip search regardless of why you are there. This is relevant to those arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), because many are booked into jail. This is particularly true for those arrested for DUI with priors, or DUI with high blood alcohol or reckless driving.
One bright spot in this news comes from San Francisco. In that city, prior Sheriff Michael Hennessey issued a departmental policy forbidding blanket strip searches. To strip search an incoming individual one or more of the following elements must be satisfied:
- Arrested for drugs, weapons or violence;
- Have a prior conviction for drugs, weapons or violence within the previous five years;
- On parole or probation on another case; or,
- Demonstrate some other good reason to believe carrying contraband.
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