Class Actions For Unlawful Strip Searches

Recently, a senior US district judge in Philadelphia, PA issued a 49 page ruling allowing a class action to continue against the company that ran a nearly 1,900-bed Delaware County (PA) Prison. The judge ruled that prisons cannot routinely strip search drunk drivers and other non-drug, non-violent arrestees without reason to think they are hiding contraband.

Courts in nine other federal districts have similarly discussed the humiliation inherent in visual or bodily searches and have held that the Fourth Amendment protection from search and seizure needs to be balanced against a prison’s need to maintain order. Accordingly, numerous class actions have been filed across the country against the operators of prisons and the cities/counties they reside in.

In fact, this PA opinion comes a week after a large settlement of a class action case in the US District of New Mexico was appproved in a case that was filed by two detainees against Valencia County, NM and a county jail for unlawful strip searches being conducted following booking into the county jail for minor charges.

According to the settlement order, Valencia County and Cornell Companies, a private corrections company that managed the jail, have agreed to pay $2.145 million and $1.155 million respectively. The proposed class of injured persons included all people arrested on charges not involving drugs, weapons or violence between certain dates that were subjected to a strip search at the county jail. The lawyers on the case expect that over 600 people may come forward to join the settlement, and that each potential class member could receive several thousand dollars for being humiliated by such unconstitutional procedures.

While this settlement isn’t as large at the one in Camden, NJ in 2007 for $7.5 million, it is further evidence of the widespread civil rights violations being perpetrated in prisons throughout the country. If you have been subjected to unnecessarily invasive practices like strip searches during your incarceration for minor charges, then you should contact an attorney immediately to evaluate your case. At Pogust Braslow & Millrood, LLC, we work dilligently to prosecute civil rights violations such as these. Contact us for a free consultation.