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Invasive tactics may be used against arrested drug offenders

Readers might have heard media accounts of strip searches used by drug enforcement officials. As might be expected, the invasive nature of that investigative tactic often becomes an issue in the prosecution of accused drug offenders.

The tactic is not confined to narcotics operations, however. A recent article examines the use of this invasive procedure in jails and prisons. Yet even inmates in a prison have certain constitutionally protected privacy rights. 

Unfortunately, a criminal defense attorney might agree that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a jailhouse strip search policy has given the tactic a certain air of legitimacy. In its opinion, the Supreme Court may have concluded that the security needs of prisons -- the cited justification for the strip search policy -- outweighed the inmate’s privacy expectations in that specific context.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, a number of lower federal courts have faced challenges against strip search policies brought by individuals alleging Fourth and/or 14th Amendment violations. The cases suggest that the analysis of whether a search is unreasonable, for constitutional purposes, might best be decided on a case-by-case basis.

With individual context comes the opportunity for plea-bargaining. An attorney might utilize distinguishing facts in a case in negotiations with prosecutors, attempting to reach a different outcome. The fact that the body of case law on this issue continues to grow might prove to be beneficial to criminal defendants. In the drug crime context, especially, an experienced attorney might utilize new legal developments in bringing challenges against evidence and police procedures.

Source:, “Jailhouse Strip-Search Policy Draws Concern,” Rose Bouboushian, Sept. 25, 2013

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