Can you be “strip searched” if you are only charged with serious traffic violations?

No. The Court held that there is a higher standard that must be met before the State can lawfully conduct a strip search.

In State v. Nieves, 383 Md. 573, (Md. 2004), the Court held that as a general rule, the State can only strip  search a person subject to a lawful arrest if the officer had information that would lead to a reasonable articulable suspicion that the person was carrying weapons or contraband at the time of the arrest. A mere hunch or suspicion is insufficient.

In this case the Defendant was arrested for traffic offenses that included driving on a suspended license, negligent driving, failure to control speed, and giving false accident information. No drugs or contraband were found in the car or during a routine search of the Defendant. The overzealous Police decided to subject Neives to a humiliating full body strip search.

The court found that the State had clearly crossed the line because a strip search  was not reasonable given the nature of the traffic violations for which the Defendant was arrested. There was no articulable suspicion that would give rise to a reasonable inference that he was carrying weapons or contraband in a body cavity. A full body cavity strip search was opprobrious and incredibly intrusive. This was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against an unreasonable search by Law Enforcement.

The State argued that the justification for the strip search was based on the Defendant’s past history of drug activity. However, the court ruled that allowing a strip search based on prior drug arrests was unconstitutional inasmuch as it would amount to allowing a search based on a person’s “status”, rather than an individualized assessment of the circumstances.

The Police do not have the right to strip search a person under such circumstances. The intrusion was clearly unreasonable.

There is a cause of action under U.S.C. sec. 1983, when the State violates the Civil rights of its citizens.




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