AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
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Search: Body Cavity
A female former
inmate at a correctional facility claimed that three female officers threw
her to the ground, lifted her smock, and forcibly opened her legs to allow
a male officer to visually inspect her genitalia for mattress cotton. A
Fourth Amendment claim regarding this visual body cavity search could go
forward because the plaintiff retained a limited right to bodily privacy
and there were disputed issues of fact concerning whether the search took
place and the purported justification for it. There appeared to be no evidence
that the plaintiff was in such imminent danger of harming herself that
the search had to be conducted right away by the male officer at the scene.
An Eighth Amendment excessive force claim could also go forward. Harris
v. Miller, #14-2957, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 4701 (2nd Cir.).
A female former inmate asserted privacy and other claims against New Jersey and correctional officials and employees, asserting that without proper authorization they took her from one place of confinement to another where they denied her clothing, sanitary napkins, and potable water, as well as needed medications, and subjected her to an unlawful body cavity search. They also allegedly required her to go to the shower or otherwise be exposed while naked while male employees and inmates were present. A federal appeals court found that she failed to adequately show that the state Attorney General or Commissioner of Corrections had adopted policies that led to the deprivation of her constitutional rights or that one named correctional officer knew of these violations. Claims against other, as yet unidentified, correctional employees with respect to these alleged violations, however, could continue. Chavarriaga v. NJ Dep't of Corrs., #14-2044, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 19854 (3rd Cir.).
An African-American inmate claimed that four correctional officers violated his constitutional rights during a visual body cavity search when he returned to a correctional facility from a school. He said that he was told to remove his clothes, lift his genitals, and bend over and spread his buttocks. He further complained that the search took place in front of other prisoners and in the view of a security camera, so that female correctional officers observed the search via video. He also claimed that one of the officers subjected his to a racial slur by calling him a "monkey." A federal appeals court found the plaintiff failed to establish that any of this conduct violated his clearly established constitutional rights. Story v. Foote, #13-2834, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 5719 (8th.).
A woman was arrested and charged with driving on a license suspended for failure to pay a traffic ticket, She paid her ticket and fines, but while waiting to be released later that same day from the city jail, was ordered to undress and shower in the presence of a corrections officer and two other female detainees. She was also subjected to a visual body cavity search, being instructed to bend at the waist and spread her buttocks. While bent over, despite the fact that there was no indication that she had lice, the officer sprayed her all over her naked body, including into her anus, with a delousing solution. A federal appeals court ruled that the complaint plausibly alleged a Fourth Amendment violation in that the jail, rather than using less invasive procedures, required pretrial detainees who were being processed into the facility to undress in the presence of other detainees and to have their naked genitals sprayed with delousing solution from a pressurized metal canister. It could have, for instance, allowed such detainees to apply the solution themselves. The appeals court rejected the trial court's ruling that the issue raised in the case was precluded from being raised by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of Cnty. of Burlington, #10-945, 132 S. Ct. 1510 (2012), upholding the constitutionality of a blanket policy of strip searching incoming pretrial detainees absent individualized suspicion that each detainee was concealing contraband. Williams v. City of Cleveland, #13-4162, 771 F.3d 945 (6th Cir. 2014).
A man arrested for DUI admitted that he had recently smoked marijuana and he was then subjected to a visual inspection body cavity search at a detention center. In his lawsuit over the search, defendant officers were entitled to qualified immunity. At the time of the strip search, there was no clearly established law in the Eighth Circuit, and a reasonable officer would have had a "solid belief" that strip searching an arrestee was constitutional if there was reasonable suspicion that the detainee possessed contraband. Jacobson v. McCormick, #12-3530, 763 F.3d 914 (8th Cir. 2014).
A jury verdict that a county jail did not violate the rights of a man detained for civil contempt by subjecting him to an invasive body cavity search was set aside by a federal trial court as against the manifest weight of the evidence, when the detainee was not charged with any crime, and deputies at the facility did not state that they had any suspicion about the detainee which would justify the type of search conducted. A new trial was therefore granted on the plaintiff's claim. Thompson v. County of Cook, No. 03C7172, 428 F. Supp. 2d 807 (N.D. Ill. 2006). [N/R]
Strip search, including a digital rectal search, of a prisoner who allegedly refused to cooperate and injured a guard in resisting was reasonable and justified by a legitimate interest in maintaining order and security. The prisoner's "conclusory" assertion that the glove used to conduct the search was "dirty" was insufficient to show that the search was conducted in an unsanitary manner in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Green v. Hallam, No. 03-2562, 105 Fed. Appx. 858 (7th Cir. 2004). [N/R]
Inmate who completed only the first step of a multi-step jail grievance procedure failed to satisfy the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e, that he exhaust available administrative remedies before filing his lawsuit seeking damages for an allegedly unreasonable body cavity search. Morgan v. Maricopa County, 259 F. Supp. 2d 985 (D. Ariz. 2003). [N/R]
Manual search of prisoner's rectal cavity for the purposes of preventing drugs from entering an administrative segregation unit did not violate his Fourth Amendment or Eighth Amendment rights when carried out in prison infirmary's emergency room by medical personnel. Alleged violation of prison regulation requiring the exhaustion of other search methods first did not establish a constitutional violation. Wiley v. Serrano, #00-55997, 37 Fed. Appx. 252, 2002 U.S. App. Lexis 9736 (9th Cir. 2002). [2002 JB Nov]
267:42 Texas prisoner complaining that body cavity searches were used to sexually harass him could not proceed as pauper in lawsuit or appeal of dismissal when he previously filed four frivolous lawsuits and did not allege imminent danger of serious physical harm at time of filing lawsuit or appeal. Banos v. O'Guin, #97-40354, 144 F.3d 883 (5th Cir. 1998).
241:13 Jury verdict that body cavity search was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment was "inconsistent" with its further finding that prison guards were also entitled to qualified immunity; federal appeals court orders further proceedings. Koch v. Ricketts, 82 F.3d 317 (9th Cir. 1996).
217:13 Digital rectal probes of all prisoners transferred to institution's most secure area was unconstitutional in the absence of "predicate cause" for particular searches; defendant prison officials, however, were entitled to qualified immunity from liability. Castillo v. Gardner, 854 F.Supp. 725 (E.D. Wash. 1994).
221:75 Visual body cavity searches, conducted on all prisoners, were justified by emergency situation of increasing violence in prison; necessity for swift action justified conducting search of group of prisoners in one location. Elliott v. Lynn, 38 F.3d 188 (5th Cir. 1994).
[N/R] Digital rectal search of prisoner was not cruel and unusual punishment; search was based on legitimate objectives and was not conducted in an unnecessarily brutal, painful or humiliating manner. Del Raine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024 (7th Cir. 1994).
Prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity from liability for policy permitting digital rectal probe searches on all inmates entering a secured area of the prison; officials testified that they researched the legality of the searches before implementing the policy. Hemphill v. Kincheloe, 987 F.2d 589 (9th Cir. 1993).
Visual body cavity searches of prisoners before and after contact visits were reasonable regardless of whether there was probable cause, when conducted to prevent possession of weapons and contraband; possible violation of Wisconsin prison regulation in conducting search was not a violation of constitutional rights. Zunker v. Bertrand, 798 F.Supp. 1365 (E.D. Wis. 1992).
Prison policy of random visual body cavity searches of inmates designed to prevent trafficking in contraband was not unconstitutional. Covino v. Patrissi, 967 F.2d 73 (2nd Cir. 1992). Digital rectal probe of prisoner prior to placement in unit housing particularly violent offenders was rationally connected to a legitimate interest in safety and order. Terrovona v. Brown, 783 F.Supp. 1281 (W.D. Wash. 1991).
Prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity for conducting visual body cavity search of male inmate in the presence of female correctional officers, based on reasonable, even if mistaken, belief that an emergency existed. Cookish v. Powell, 945 F.2d 441 (1st Cir. 1991).
Prison policy of subjecting all prisoners transferred to intensive management unit to digital rectal probes, absent probable cause for concealment of contraband, was unconstitutional; prisoner subjected to search awarded $1 in nominal damages. Wetmore v. Garner, 735 F.Supp. 974 (E.D. Wash. 1990).
Associate Warden liable to inmate for $4,000 for digital anal body cavity search without legitimate penological purpose. Hill v. Koon, 732 F.Supp. 1076 (D. Nev. 1990).
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