Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Local Law Enforcement

by WHIZ Reporter on April 3, 2012 at 5:48 am

A Supreme Court ruling could change the way local law enforcement agencies conduct searches on prisoners… Even those being held on a minor offense.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a 2010 ruling stating that officers do have the right to strip-search inmates to prevent illegal contraband and weapons from being smuggled into jail.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said the practice of strip-searching has been controversial for quite some time.

The Sheriff told WHIZ News that current policies allow those held on minor offenses, like out-of-state traffic offenders, to be booked and released on their own recognizance– without strip-searching.

"Somebody like that, that’s not going back into population, we don’t strip search.  We’ll pat them down to make sure they have no weapons or any contraband that we can feel that a detriment to our people, they’re booked in, we take their pictures and prints and then they’re released O.R. (on recognizance).  But anybody going back into population usually gets a more thorough search, so we’ll continue to do that at this point," said Lutz.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 to uphold the U.S. Court of Appeals Decision.

The Sheriff said regardless of anybody’s personal feelings on the matter, safety has to remain the top priority for both prisoners and corrections officers.

"There’s a couple of different opinions of this, Obviously law enforcement– we like those rights because we want to be safe, and we want to make sure that our people are safe and I think that if we walk somebody in and there’s a good suspicion that they’re hiding something or they’re acting nervous, obviously they’re going to be more apt to be searched than somebody that’s not," added Lutz.

Lutz said it’s unclear yet whether policies within the county will change based on the ruling.