Posts Tagged ‘illegal search’

Court says strip search of child illegal

June 25, 2009
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer Jesse J. Holland, Associated Press Writer 4 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a school’s strip search of an Arizona teenage girl accused of having prescription-strength ibuprofen was illegal.

The court ruled on Thursday that school officials violated the law with their search of Savana Redding, who lives in Safford, in rural eastern Arizona.

Redding, who now attends college, was 13 when officials at Safford Middle School ordered her to remove her clothes and shake out her underwear because they were looking for pills. The district bans prescription and over-the-counter drugs and the school was acting on a tip from another student.

The high court, however, said the officials cannot be held liable in a lawsuit for the search. The justices also said the lower courts would have to determine whether the school district could be held liable.

A schoolmate had accused Redding, then an eighth-grade student, of giving her pills.

The school’s vice principal, Kerry Wilson, took Redding to his office to search her backpack. When nothing was found, Redding was taken to a nurse’s office where she says she was ordered to take off her shirt and pants. Redding said they then told her to move her bra to the side and to stretch her underwear waistband, exposing her breasts and pelvic area. No pills were found.

A federal magistrate dismissed a suit by Redding and her mother, April. An appeals panel agreed that the search didn’t violate her rights. But last July, a full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the search was “an invasion of constitutional rights” and that Wilson could be found personally liable.

The case is Safford Unified School District v. April Redding, 08-479.


Court sides with police officers in search case

January 28, 2009

The Associated Press, Wednesday January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police officers in Utah who searched a suspect’s home without a warrant cannot be sued for violating his constitutional rights.

In ruling unanimously for five officers attached to the Central Utah Narcotics Task Force, the court also abandoned a rigid, two-step test that it adopted in 2001 to guide judges in assessing alleged violations of constitutional rights.

Trial and appellate judges “should be permitted to exercise their sound discretion” in evaluating such claims, Justice Samuel Alito said in his opinion for the court.

Under the 2001 ruling, courts first had to determine whether an action amounts to a violation of a constitutional right and then decide whether the public official, often a police officer, should be immune from the civil lawsuit.

Officials can’t be held liable in situations where it is not clearly established that their actions violated someone’s constitutional rights.

The case grew out of a search of the home of Afton Callahan of Millard County, Utah, in 2002.

An informant contacted police to tell them he had arranged to purchase drugs from Callahan at Callahan’s trailer home.

Wearing a microphone provided by police, the informant entered the trailer and signaled police that a deal had been made. They entered the trailer without a warrant and arrested Callahan on charges of possession of methamphetamines.

Utah courts ruled that the evidence that was seized from Callahan’s home could not be used against him. Other courts have allowed prosecutions to go forward under similar circumstances.

Callahan later sued the officers for violating his constitutional rights. A federal judge ruled the officers could not be sued because there is disagreement in the courts over whether the search was illegal.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said the lawsuit could proceed because the officers should have known that people have a right in their home to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The high court said Wednesday that the officers are entitled to immunity from Callahan’s suit.

The case is Pearson v. Callahan, 07-751.