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$2 Million Verdict in Florida Public Strip Search and Illegal Detention Suit

A Florida federal jury awarded a total of $2 million to three people subject to an illegal detention and search after a midnight traffic stop and drug investigation. The July 2001 incident lasted over four hours.

After the stop, deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office removed Arnetta McCloud and her 15-year-old daughter, Cynthia, from their vehicle while their cousin Marcus Frazier sat in the vehicle.

Both women testified at trial that they were strip-searched on the side of the road by a female Leon County deputy. Arnetta somehow suffered a scratch to her vagina while teenage Cynthia endured humiliation by having to lower her pants and underwear while a flashlight was trained on her groin.

The district court instructed the jury that the deputies could only detain the McClouds and Fraizer as long as was “reasonably necessary” to determine there were no drugs in the car. After deputies determined they had no drugs, they forced the family to the home of relatives while a search of the home was conducted.

The jury found they were held longer than necessary and that the deputies acted according to a “custom” or policy of the Sheriff’s office, and they did so with “malicious” disregard for the family’s rights.

Cynthia was awarded $173,000 for humiliation and to cover psychological counseling, and punitive damages of $1.3 million. Arnetta was awarded $85,000 for humiliation and counseling and $250,000 in punitive damages; Frazier was awarded $42,000 for humiliation and counseling and $150,000 in punitive damages. They were represented by Stuart attorney Guy Rubin. See: McCloud v. Fortune, USDC, S.D. Fla., Case No. 04-80984.

Source: Tallahassee Democrat

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Related legal case

McCloud v. Fortune