Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Inserting a probe into a woman’s vagina is plainly a search when performed by the government"

And you thought law school was humiliating. At Valencia College (a state school in Orlando), female sonography students were encouraged to submit to transvaginal ultrasounds performed by their (male and female) peers for educational purposes. Some of the women objected. They were harassed out of the program.

The women sued. Two of them who submitted to the ultrasounds claimed that the procedure amounted to an unconstitutional search in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed their claims, holding that a search is not a search for Fourth Amendment purposes if it is motivated by educational interests.

The Eleventh Circuit reversed. No investigative purpose is required for a government intrusion to violate the Fourth Amendment, said the court:

"Although the employees did not conduct the transvaginal ultrasounds to discover violations of the law, the word 'search' in the Fourth Amendment does not contain a purpose requirement."

The court relied on Soldal v. Cook, 506 U.S. 56, 69 (1992). There, the Supreme Court announced that "the reason why an officer might enter a house or effectuate a seizure is wholly irrelevant to the threshold question whether the [Fourth] Amendment applies."

According to Valencia's website, the sonography program "offers real-life lessons to help students build skills and confidence." Real-life lessons indeed.

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