California DUI lawyer update
An Oakland man who says he was strip-searched in an Alameda County jail after a California DUI - drunken-driving arrest has filed a federal class-action suit accusing the county of conducting the searches without evidence that detainees are hiding weapons or contraband.
Ron Charles Roth, 47, filed suit two months after a judge gave final approval to a $6.2 million settlement of a similar federal class-action suit claiming that Alameda County authorities had conducted illegal strip searches at two jails from 2004 to 2006.
A California Highway Patrol officer arrested Roth in front of his home Feb. 3, 2007, for allegedly California DUI being under the influence when he moved his car, Roth's lawyer, Mark Merin of Sacramento, said Monday.
Roth was taken to the Glenn Dyer Detention Facility, a jail in downtown Oakland run by the Alameda County sheriff's office. There, he was ordered to take his clothes off for an inspection, said the suit filed Jan. 14 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Authorities later learned that Roth had a warrant for an outstanding ticket for fishing without a license from San Mateo County and transferred him there, the suit said.
Alameda County jailers routinely conduct strip-searches and visual body-cavity searches without having a "reasonable suspicion that the search will be productive of contraband or weapons," said the suit, which names the county and Sheriff Greg Ahern.
Roth's complaint claims the county violated privacy rights under state law and the U.S. Constitution. It seeks damages of at least $5,000 for everyone subjected to similar searches since Jan. 1, 2007.
"This is the most dehumanizing thing you can do to somebody," Merin said. "The people who are charged with minor offenses, who haven't been arraigned, should at least be protected so they aren't naked unless they have some reason to believe they're concealing something. You can't have a blanket search."
Sgt. J.D. Nelson, spokesman for the sheriff's office, would not comment on the specifics of the case. But he said the department had "definitely modified its strip-search policy since the settlement" of the earlier class-action lawsuit, which was also filed by Merin.
County Counsel Richard Winnie said Ahern "has been working very hard to make sure that jail policies fully conform with the ever-evolving policies of the courts. It has been a very high priority of the sheriff ever since he took office."
Merin agreed that some changes had been made since the earlier suit, such as installing privacy screens for searches. The attorney has filed similar suits in San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo, Solano and Sacramento counties on behalf of adult and juvenile inmates.
end of California DUI lawyer update