Strip searches are so dehumanizing that they violate a person’s constitutional rights if conducted without good reason to suspect that an arrested individual is carrying contraband, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The decision came in response to a lawsuit challenging a San Francisco policy of routinely strip-searching inmates in an attempt to stem the flow of drugs and weapons into the jails.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the practice employed by San Francisco city and county authorities violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The panel also ruled that San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey’s claim that the indiscriminate strip-searching was intended to protect other prisoners and jail staff from potential harm did not make him immune from lawsuits.
“The intrusiveness of a body-cavity search cannot be overstated,” read the decision written by Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas in a case filed on behalf of anti-war activist Mary Bull and eight other named plaintiffs.
“To justify such a dehumanizing and humiliating invasion of privacy, there must be some reasonable relationship between the criteria used to identify the specific individuals eligible for a strip search and the interest in preventing the introduction of contraband.”
Crash kills pilot, two in home
An experimental aircraft crashed into a house and exploded shortly after takeoff Friday, killing the pilot and two persons inside the home, authorities said.
The pilot of the home-built plane radioed that he was in trouble shortly after taking off from the North Las Vegas Airport, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Hawthorne, Calif.
A review of tower audiotapes showed the pilot told air controllers that he was going down, Gregor said.
Gregor said the plane couldn’t gain altitude.
Firefighters quickly doused an intense fire in the single-family stucco home in a working-class neighborhood southeast of a main runway at the airport. No other homes appeared damaged.
The plane appeared to have crashed through the roof over the living room.
North Las Vegas Airport is the second-busiest airport in Nevada after McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, according to the airport’s Web site. It’s a busy hub for small planes and jets, and serves as a base for sightseeing flights to the Grand Canyon and other attractions.