California Senator Leno introduces Bill to Limit Strip Searches

For  Non-Violent Detainees
By Melanie Nathan, April 19, 2012

Senator Mark Leno

SACRAMENTO – Senator Mark Leno today announced introduction of legislation to protect Californians from intrusive strip and body cavity searches when they are taken into custody for minor offenses that do not involve drugs, weapons or violence. Senate Bill 1536 clarifies existing state law to allow detainees adequate time to post bail or be released on their own recognizance before they are placed within the general population of a jail, where they would be subject to strip searches and visual body cavity searches.

“A sexual assault victim or person who has been detained for a minor crime, such as having unpaid parking tickets, should not have suffer the invasion of privacy and humiliation of a strip search without a compelling reason,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “SB 1536 ensures that detainees are given adequate time to arrange for their own release before they are subject to these extreme jailhouse procedures.”

Current California law protects arrestees and detainees from strip and body cavity searches if they are being held for an infraction or misdemeanor that does not involve weapons, controlled substances or violence. However, these same people are subject to strip and body cavity searches when they are placed within the general jail population, which commonly occurs when they do not post bail or get released on their own recognizance within three hours of their detention.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit authorities from strip searching a detainee when he or she is placed into the general population of a jail. The court did not, however, determine when it is constitutionally permissible for an arrestee to be placed into the general population, or decide whether a search can be lawfully performed on a detainee prior to placement into the general population.

“That permissive standard for conducting broad and intrusive searches is out of step with existing public policy in California and invites abuse of this intrusive procedure,” said Senator Leno.

SB 1536 will be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee on April 24.


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