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How Will Court Ruling Impact Strip-Searches in El Paso?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 10:19pm

EL PASO - Could a minor offense get you strip-searched? By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anyone can be strip-searched when they're booked into jail. But, how will the court's ruling impact the way strip-searches are carried out in El Paso?

The supreme court's decision no longer requires law enforcement to justify a strip-search. That ruling has civil rights advocates crying foul, arguing it goes too far.

"I think, in these instances where you have a seatbelt offense or just a minor traffic be subjected to the horror of having people search every cavity of your body, I think, is unconscionable, and it's something everyone should be concerned about,” said Amin Alehashem, a civil rights attorney.

Commander Gomecindo Lopez, with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, said strip searches aren't commonplace at the county jail.

"This is something we take serious. This doesn't happen everyday; a lot of people are under that impression. This is something that is serous for us because we realize it's an invasion of privacy,” said Cmdr. Lopez.

According to the Detention Services Policy and Procedures manual, the purpose of a search is to prevent weapons and other dangerous items from getting into the facility.

The manual also says that searches are conducted on all inmates who have been outside the facility, and that they are carried out when there's reasonable suspicion to believe that an inmate is carrying something illegal.

Despite the supreme court's decision, Cmdr. Lopez said the jail's policy against random strip searches will remain in place.

"It doesn't mean anybody going in going to get strip- searched no matter what,” said Cmdr. Lopez.

Critics of this supreme court ruling argue that it violates our privacy, and the fourth amendment, which protects us against unreasonable searches.



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