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ACLU Sues to Halt Strip-Searching of L.A. County Inmates

August 16, 1986|From United Press International

LOS ANGELES — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit claiming that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department policy of strip-searching all prisoners held on misdemeanors is unconstitutional.

The federal court suit was filed this week on behalf of Carole Viers, a 42-year-old mother with no criminal record, who was strip-searched at Sybil Brand Institute for Women after her arrest at her home for two outstanding traffic warrants on March 11.

The suit said Viers' constitutional rights to privacy and against unreasonable searches were violated when a woman jail guard ordered her to strip naked and examined her body cavities in an unenclosed shower area at the women's jail.

In addition to $50,000 in damages, the suit asks for a federal court order halting the Sheriff's Department, which operates Sybil Brand and the main men's jail, from "continuing their indiscriminate strip-search policy, unless reasonable grounds exist to believe an arrestee is concealing weapons or contraband."

Catherine Leslie, the ACLU attorney who filed the case, said a hearing on the requested injunction will probably be held in September. She said any order would apply to all county jails.

While felony crimes often involve violence and drugs, Leslie said it was unreasonable to automatically search everyone arrested for lesser offenses.

A spokesman for the county counsel's office said the agency had not yet seen the suit.

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