It's probably the most personal and emotionally damaging of all invasions of privacy -- the strip search. No one wants someone examining their naked body or, even worse, searching inside that body. That's why the ACLU of Montana is working with Sen. Anders Blewett to pass a new law limiting the use of strip and body cavity searches in our state.

As it stands now, the state doesn't have codified limits on the use of these invasive and humiliating searches. Senate Bill 194 would add a new provision to Montana Code stating that "A person arrested or detained for a traffic offense or an offense that is not a felony may not be subjected to a strip search or a body cavity search by a peace officer or law enforcement employee unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe the person is concealing a weapon, contraband, or evidence of the commission of a crime."

These are reasonable limitations and we are very optimistic that this bill will pass. There's simply no reason to subject someone to a body cavity or strip search for a traffic offense or for a misdemeanor crime unless there is some valid reason to suspect that person is hiding drugs, a weapon or some other serious evidence on or in their body.

The ACLU has been involved in this issue for quite some time.

When Savanna Redding was 13 years old, middle school officials subjected her to a strip search for prescription strength ibuprofen based solely on the baseless accusation of a classmate. The ACLU took on Savanna's case and won in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the school nurse's office, Redding was ordered to strip to her underwear. She was then commanded to pull her bra out and to the side, exposing her breasts, and to pull her underwear out at the crotch, exposing her pelvic area. The strip search failed to uncover any ibuprofen pills.

"The strip search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had," said Redding in a sworn affidavit following the incident. "I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry."

No one should be subjected to this kind of treatment without a very good reason. We believe SB 194 will protect Montanans.

Our schedule for the day:
House Judiciary Committee 8 a.m., Room 137

  • HB 269 Assault on health care or emergency services provider

House State Administration Committee 8 a.m., Room 455

  • HB 277 Constitutional amendment to revise term limit laws

Senate Judiciary Committee 9 a.m., Room 303

  • SB 194 Restrict the use of strip and body cavity searches