Published on:

Suspect Subjected to Strip Search


The plaintiff and appellee in the case is Lynda L. Watt. The defendant and appellant of the case is the Police Department of the City of Richardson.


A New York Criminal Lawyer the City of Richardson is appealing the finding of the district court that states that the strip search that was performed was constitutionally invalid.

Case Background

Lynda Watt was with her five year old son on the third of March in 1985. She was pulled over by a police officer because the vehicle that she was driving had an inspection sticker that was expired. She told the officer that she was borrowing the car from her mother’s estate and he issued a warning. However, when the officer conducted a routine computer check on Watt, he discovered a warrant that was outstanding for failing to license her dog. While this offense is only punishable by a fine, the police officer was required to arrest Watt.

Watt fully cooperated with the officer during her short custody. It was not apparent that she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The search of Watt’s purse revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Additionally, a Nassau County Criminal Lawyer said she volunteered information about a previous arrest for a minor drug offense in 1974. This conviction had not shown up in the computer search done by the police until she gave her surname. The police conducted a pat down search.

During this time Watt was told that she would need to post bail of $160. She did not have the cash with her so she called a neighbor to bring the money and to pick up her son. The police were aware that she would be released shortly.

The police then told Watt that because she had a criminal history record that she would be required to submit to a visual strip search. This is in regard to a policy of the city that states that any individual who is detained on a drug charge, shoplifting (petit larceny) charge, or weapons charge, or has a history of any of these offenses, must be strip searched.

Watts protested the strip search, but finally submitted. This included a visual body cavity inspection performed by a female communications officer. The strip complied with the policy of city and took place in a cell that had no windows or television cameras. The strip search was negative as were the other searches.

Case Discussion and Verdict

Analysis of the policy of the city in regards to a strip search begins with the decision made by the Supreme Court in the case of Bell versus Wolfish, which approved a policy that allowed strip searches of detainees after they had contact with an outside visitor. The reasoning was that it would deter the smuggling of weapons and contraband being brought into the facilities.

In this particular case, it is not the city’s policy on strip searches that is in question. It is the question of whether or not the strip search was valid in this particular case. The police would not have known of the prior drug conviction of Ms. Watt had she not been forthcoming with the information. In addition, she was cooperative, obviously sober, and rational throughout the process. This behavior should have been considered before the strip search was conducted. For these reasons this court is affirming the prior courts judgment in the case.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates we offer free consultations to anyone that is in need of legal advice, whether you have been charged with sex crimes, theft or a drug crime. We have several office locations throughout the metropolitan area of Manhattan for your convenience. You may call and talk to one of our expert lawyers at any time and set up an appointment to get the legal advice that you need.

Contact Information