$182,000 settlement in Washoe County strip search policy

A federal magistrate has ruled that the Washoe County sheriff's department's routine strip search policy is unconstitutional and ordered the county to pay 182,000 dollars to four women and two men.

County commissioners agreed on Tuesday to pay the settlement after US Magistrate Robert McQuaid ruled against the county in a lawsuit filed by the six. The magistrate said former Sheriff Dennis Balaam's policy requiring strip searches of everyone who surrenders on outstanding warrants violated the Fourth Amendment.

Two men and two women had court orders or made prior arrangements with court services to be released on their own recognizance. Their Reno lawyer, Don Evans, said they never left
the booking area or spent any time in jail.

Evans said another plaintiff, an American Indian woman, was strip-searched twice and forced to take a shower under observation after being falsely arrested by tribal police. She was jailed for three days.

And he said a 65-year-old grandmother was strip-searched after being arrested and later released without being jailed.

The strip searches ended when Evans filed his lawsuit in April of 2004.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)