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Va. court finds prison employees met reasonable suspicion burden in visitor strip search

by R. Bailey

A Virginia federal district court granted the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) summary judgment in a lawsuit alleging constitutional violations occurred when a visitor was strip searched.

Angela Calloway sued VDOC under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, alleging Fifth and Fourteenth amendment violations and state law claims for assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, she alleges that while visiting prisoner Travis Talbert on July 16, 2016, she was subjected to an involuntary strip search without reasonable suspicion.

As the case only involved state actors, the court applied a Fourth Amendment standard of review because the Fifth Amendment only applies to “action of the federal government.” To survive under the Fourth Amendment, Calloway had to show the defendant did not have “reasonable suspicion” for the strip search.

The court found the defendants met their burden. Talbert had previously been convicted of a disciplinary action for attempting to introduce contraband, and they had current information that he was “moving” contraband into the prison during visits. The guard who was watching the visit on video found the movements and behavior of Calloway and Talbert appeared suspicious before ordering the search.

The court disagreed that the defendants were required to use an alternative by employing a K-9 dog rather than conducting a strip search. The court granted summary judgment on all claims. See: Calloway v. Brown, _____ USDC, W.D. VA 2018


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Related legal case

Calloway v. Brown, et al.