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Court: Montana lockup strip search policy violates state law

September 17, 2020 GMT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana inmates who are detained for misdemeanors or traffic offenses cannot be strip searched without reasonable suspicion, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The court’s unanimous 5-0 ruling on Tuesday reversed a decision by Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Mike McMahon, who ruled that a detention center strip search policy did not violate the state Constitution or state law.

The Lewis and Clark Detention Center in Helena had a policy requiring strip searches of all detainees placed into the general population of the facility to prevent them from bringing in weapons or contraband, the Independent Record reported.

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The justice who authored the state Supreme Court’s decision, Ingrid Gustafson, said the search policy violated state law prohibiting strip searches without suspicion for people arrested on minor offenses.

She wrote that the policy did not violate the state Constitution.