Posted: Jun 23, 2012 4:35 PM
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that an eastern Kentucky juvenile facility's screening of unclothed teens in 2009 was unconstitutional.
In his ruling, U.S. Senior District Judge Karl S. Forester also said a blanket policy the state had at the time calling for youths to be screened without clothes was constitutional.
The case stems from intake screenings at the Breathitt Regional Juvenile Detention Center, where two half-siblings were taken after being charged with underage drinking. The youths were required to strip before going through a screening process during intake.
The charges were dropped and the teens' parents sued the guards, the center, its director and state juvenile justice officials.
Forester noted in his ruling this month that the U.S. Sixth Judicial Circuit has held since 2004 that "unclothed visual observation of a juvenile accused of a non-violent offense violates the Fourth Amendment in the absence of individualized reasonable suspicion of possession of contraband."
Lexington attorney Joe Childers, who represents the teens' parents, told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/MEn7dd) that his clients were "elated" at the ruling.
"The ruling is important not just for my clients, but for all juveniles who might be arrested for minor offenses in the state," he said.
State officials, who changed the screening policy shortly after the lawsuit was filed, declined to comment. They are appealing the ruling.
Juveniles are now required to wear state-issued garments while being screened by guards.
At the time that the teens were picked up, the department's policy called for all detainees to disrobe before being screened during which time guards checked them for illness, injury, abuse or neglect.
However, Forester said guards at the facility weren't medically qualified to make that determination.
"Simply put, the reasons for performing the intake strip search at BRJDC simply do not justify the serious invasion of personal privacy suffered by the juvenile plaintiffs," Forester said.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)