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Name: Byrd v. Maricopa Co. Sheriff’s Dept.
Case #: 07-16640
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/05/2011

The pat down of a male inmate’s genitals by a female officer where there was no showing of the unavailability of a male officer to do the search or with no exigent circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment. Jail officials ordered a search of an entire housing unit of inmates because they suspected contraband was being hidden. The inmates were ordered to remove all clothing except for underwear. A female cadet searched petitioner. The search included moving and applying pressure to appellant’s genitals and buttocks. Petitioner filed a civil rights action complaining, inter alia, that the search violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The factors that bear on a determination of reasonableness include: the scope of the intrusion, the place and manner in which it is conducted, and the justification for its initiation. (Bell v. Wolfish (1979) 441 U.S. 520.) The majority held the search was unreasonable. The court noted strip searches of inmates by officers of the opposite sex are frowned upon, except under exigent circumstances because they are extraordinarily intrusive. Here there was no emergency. Approximately 25 to 30 cadets and 10 to 15 officers were present. Only the cadets conducted the searches and someone else could have conducted it. Also,its scope was very intrusive. Thus, despite a valid justification for the search, and the fact it was conducted in a room with many others present, under the circumstances, it was unreasonable.