In April 2004, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Pierce County in the Pierce County Superior Court for federal constitutional and state statutory civil rights violations based on her post-arraignment strip search performed while she was in custody awaiting release on bail. Plaintiff had been ...
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In April 2004, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Pierce County in the Pierce County Superior Court for federal constitutional and state statutory civil rights violations based on her post-arraignment strip search performed while she was in custody awaiting release on bail. Plaintiff had been charged with felony forgery. She appeared in court with private counsel and asked for release on personal recognizance since she was a victim of identity theft. The court denied the request, imposed bail of $5,000, and ordered that she be taken into custody. While in custody and awaiting her bail bond, Plaintiff was subject to an automatic strip search. Later, the county dropped the charges against her after confirming she was a victim of identity theft.
The trial court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, finding that the County was liable for damages under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and that Washington's Strip Search Statutes, RCW 10.79.120 and RCW 10.79.130 were unconstitutional as applied to the Plaintiff, since her presence in the County Jail was merely related to assuring her presence at trial, and it was not with regard to the nature of the crime charged.
The Court of Appeals of Washington granted discretionary review to determine whether persons in custody subject to conditional release, as is the case for people who post bail, are 'committed to incarceration by order of a court' and therefore subject to strip search without warrant or probable cause. The court concluded that an individual awaiting a bail posting has been ordered 'conditionally released' rather than 'committed to incarceration.' See Reno v Koray, 515 U.S. 50, 57 (1995). Since Plaintiff was in custody pending release on bail, she was entitled to the protections of RCW 10.79.120 and 10.79.130, which says she may not be subject to strip search without a warrant, probable cause, or individualized reasonable suspicion. Moreover, RCW 10.79.120 and 10.79.130 are unconstitutional if applied on a blanket basis to pre-trial detainees.
Prison Legal News reports that this case resulted in a class action settlement approved in December 2007 for approximately 100 class members. PCVA Law, a private law firm in Washington, reports
that it was successful in securing a $1 million settlement against Pierce County. Anna Dimon - 04/11/2015