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Strip Searches of Juveniles Constitutional

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that it is not unconstitutional to strip search juvenile arrestees. The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit filed by then 16-year-old Jodie Smook, who was arrested for violating local curfew laws.
Smook was taken to the Minnehaha, South Dakota Juvenile Detention Center. She was placed in a private room and stripped to her undergarments. The female guard made a visual inspection and searched her clothes. Smook filed a class-action suit alleging the search violated her Fourth Amendment rights.
The South Dakota federal district court agreed. The court granted her summary judgment and said it needed to make a determination of the type of injunctive relief and amount of monetary damages to be awarded. The defendants appealed.
The Eighth Circuit found the state had a legitimate responsibility to act in loco parentis, which creates the following legitimate interests when conducting strip searches of juveniles: 1) The state has “an enhanced responsibility to take reasonable action to protect [children] from hazards resulting from the presence of contraband where children are confined;” 2) a strip search serves “the protective function of locating and removing concealed items that could be used for self-mutilation or even suicide;” and 3) a strip search may “disclose evidence of abuse that occurred in the home, and awareness of such abuse can assist juvenile authorities in structuring an appropriate plan of care.”
Thus, the appellate court found that such searches do not violate the constitution. The district court’s order was reversed and remanded. See: Smook v. Minnehaha County, South Dakota, 457 F.3d 806 (8th Cir. 2006), cert. denied.

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Related legal case

Smook v. Minnehaha County, South Dakota