A bill in the Iowa Legislature would allow more strip searches of inmates in city and county jails, in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Under the bill, people arrested for simple misdemeanors such as public intoxication or possession of drug paraphernalia could be searched for contraband even without probable cause.
Lisa Davis Cook with the Iowa Association for Justice objects. “It’s still taking their clothes off. You still have people taking their clothes off and to make people take their clothes off you should have probable cause for something such as that,” Davis Cook says. Iowa law already allows so-called visual searches without probably cause for more serious offenses.
ACLU attorney Pete McRoberts says the bill should only cover violent offenders. “And leave the college student who is arrested for public intoxication out of this list,” McRoberts says. Marshall County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy, Steve Hoffman, says that could pose a threat to officers.
The college student who is arrested for public intoxication, well perhaps he’s also carrying a weapon on him,” Hoffman says. Law enforcement officers say those arrested for minor crimes can still carry weapons into jails, sometimes at the urging of accused felons temporarily housed at the jail.
The bill cleared a three-member House committee after skeptics insisted on exempting those who are in custody for a short time and don’t end up in the jail’s general population.