ACLU of West Virginia Sues Brooke County Sheriff for Conducting Intrusive Strip Search of Woman

April 26, 2004 12:00 am

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CHARLESTON, WV – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of a woman who says local police demanded that she pull down her pants so they could photograph her tattoo.

“”The conduct of the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department toward our client is inexcusable,”” said Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of the ACLU of West Virginia. “”The strip search she endured was not only unnecessary, but also humiliating and degrading. It trampled on one of our most basic rights: the privacy rights afforded one’s own body.””

The lawsuit was filed in Brooke County Circuit Court on behalf of Nancy Pegg asserting that her right to privacy under Common Law and the West Virginia Constitution was violated.

On April 24th, 2003, Pegg was arrested for a traffic violation and taken to the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department. There she was asked if she had any distinguishing marks on her body, to which she informed the officer of a tattoo starting on the small of her back and proceeding down to her buttocks – adding a detailed description of the tattoo by color and design.

Despite her comprehensive description, Pegg was required to pull her pants down and have her tattoo photographed in an open area of the station house in full view of several male officers.

“”Since the officer already knew what the tattoo looked like based on Pegg’s description – if indeed he needed to know at all – there can be no justification for this incredibly intrusive search,”” said Terri Baur, ACLU staff attorney. “”In addition, the unnecessarily public manner in which the search was conducted only compounds the egregious violation that took place.””

The lawsuit seeks reimbursement of Pegg’s legal fees, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Patrick S. Cassidy is serving as ACLU cooperating attorney on the case.

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