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JAILS / CORRECTIONS

4th Circuit: Strip Searches in Jails / Detention Centers

 

by Jack Ryan, J.D.



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The United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has clearly rejected the concept of blanket strip search policies for arrestees and requires reasonable suspicion to believe that the particular arrestee is concealing contraband or weapons prior to conducting a strip search.

In Logan v. Shealy,i  the court reviewed the strip search of a woman who had been arrested for DUI.  The woman, Logan was brought into the Arlington Detention Center on suspicion of DUI.  She refused to take the breathalyzer test and a magistrate at the jail determined that she should be held until a responsible person picked her up.  Prior to being held, she was strip searched by a female officer of the detention center.  She subsequently filed a lawsuit based upon, among other issues, the strip search. 

At the outset the court noted that the Sheriff had promulgated a blanket strip search policy for all arrestees coming into the jail in 1974 or 1975 and that policy was still in place.  The court held that this policy violated the United Supreme Court’s decision in Bell v. Wolfish,ii

The court held:

On the undisputed and stipulated evidence, Logan's strip search bore no such discernible relationship to security needs at the Detention Center that, when balanced against the ultimate invasion of personal rights involved, it could reasonably be thought justified.  At no time would Logan or similar detainees be intermingled with the general jail population; her offense, though not a minor traffic offense, was nevertheless one not commonly associated by its very nature with the possession of weapons or contraband; there was no cause in her specific case to believe that she might possess either; and when strip-searched, she had been at the Detention Center for one and one-half hours without even a pat-down search.  An indiscriminate strip search policy routinely applied to detainees such as Logan along with all other detainees cannot be constitutionally justified simply on the basis of administrative ease in attending to security considerations. 

Thus, the 4th Circuit is consistent with other circuits which have concluded that blanket strip search policies do not meet constitutional standards and that such searches must be supported by, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is concealing contraband.

CITATIONS:

i Logan v. Shealy, 660 F.2d 1007 (4th Cir.  1981).

ii Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 at 559 (1979). (“In each case it requires a balancing of the need for the particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails. Courts must consider the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the place in which it is conducted.”)

 

 

 
       
 


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