Brief of Juvenile Law Center in Support of Appellant
Marsha L. Levick
SummaryOriginal

Summary

The Court should affirm that juveniles who did not kill or intend to kill can not face mandatory life imprisonment. This court's jurisprudence acknowledges that juveniles merit less severe punishment.

2016 | State Juristiction

Brief of Juvenile Law Center in Support of Appellant

Keywords developmental differences; strip search; body cavity searches; minors; children; trauma; Fourth Amendment (U.S.); age; adolescent vulnerability; immaturity; expectation of privacy; Florence
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Summary of Argument

The district court in this case incorrectly held that the suspicionless body cavity search of a 12-year-old girl detained for a minor offense is a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. Although the Supreme Court approved such searches for adult detainees in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, 132 S. Ct. 1510 (2012), the Court has consistently recognized that children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults, and that their developmental characteristics must be considered when assessing the scope and breadth of their constitutional rights. The district court failed to follow that well-established principle, and instead mechanically applied the Florence standard for strip searches of adults in jail to assess the reasonableness of strip searches of children in juvenile detention. This wholesale adoption of an adult standard to determine the Fourth Amendment rights of children fails to account for T.M.’s youthfulness, as required by Supreme Court precedent, and impermissibly equates juvenile detention with adult jail.

Rather than expanding the Florence holding to cover children, the district court should have simply engaged in the standard Fourth Amendment analysis, balancing the need for the search against the invasion of privacy that the search entails. Strip searches of children are an exceptional invasion of privacy that can cause lasting harm. This intrusion cannot be justified by the cited governmental interests. Although juvenile detention facilities have legitimate safety and security interests, the suspicionless body cavity search of a child goes far beyond the scope necessary to protect those interests, and thus violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches.

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Summary of Argument

The district court's ruling that a suspicionless body cavity search of a 12-year-old girl detained for a minor offense is permissible under the Fourth Amendment is flawed. While the Supreme Court has upheld similar searches for adults in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, the court has consistently recognized that children possess distinct developmental characteristics that necessitate a different approach when assessing the scope of their constitutional rights. The district court erred by applying the Florence standard for adult strip searches to a juvenile detention setting without considering the unique vulnerabilities of children. This approach disregards Supreme Court precedent, equating juvenile detention with adult jail.

A proper Fourth Amendment analysis, balancing the government's need for the search against the intrusion of privacy it entails, would have revealed the unreasonableness of the search. Strip searches of children represent an exceptional invasion of privacy with potentially lasting harm, and the government's cited interests, including security and safety, do not justify such an intrusive procedure. While juvenile detention facilities possess legitimate security concerns, the suspicionless body cavity search of a child exceeds the necessary scope for protecting those interests and violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches.

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Summary of Argument

The district court erred in ruling that a suspicionless body cavity search of a 12-year-old girl detained for a minor offense was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. While the Supreme Court has upheld such searches for adults in detention facilities, it has consistently recognized that children are not simply miniature adults and their unique developmental characteristics must be considered when assessing their constitutional rights. The district court's application of the Florence standard for adult strip searches to a child in juvenile detention ignores this established principle and fails to account for the child's youthfulness.

Instead of expanding the Florence holding to encompass children, the court should have balanced the government's need for the search against the invasion of privacy it entails. Strip searches of children are a significant intrusion that can have lasting negative consequences and cannot be justified by the government's stated interests. Although juvenile detention facilities have legitimate safety and security concerns, the suspicionless body cavity search of a child goes far beyond what is necessary to protect these interests, violating the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.

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Summary of Argument

A court made a mistake when it said it was okay to search a 12-year-old girl's body without any reason to think she had done anything wrong. Even though the Supreme Court said it was okay to do this to adults in jail, kids are different from adults. They're still growing and developing, and we need to think about that when we're talking about their rights.

Why It's Wrong:

The court didn't think about how young the girl was. Instead, they just used the same rules for adults in jail. But kids aren't just small adults. They're different, and we need to treat them differently.

Body searches are really invasive and can be really harmful to kids. The government says they need to do these searches for safety and security, but searching a kid's body without any reason is going too far. It's not fair and it's not right.

What Should Have Happened:

The court should have looked at the situation carefully and thought about how the search would affect the girl. They should have realized that it was too invasive and that it wasn't necessary to keep everyone safe.

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Summary of Argument

A court made a mistake when it said that police can search a 12-year-old girl's body without a good reason. Even though the highest court in the country said it was okay to search adults in jail this way, kids are different from adults. They're still growing and learning, and we need to protect their rights.

The court didn't think about how young the girl was. Instead, they just used the same rules for adults in jail. But kids aren't the same as adults, and we can't treat them the same way.

When police want to search someone, they have to balance the need for the search with how much it invades the person's privacy. Searching a kid's body is a big invasion of privacy, and it can be really harmful. The police said they needed to search the girl for safety reasons, but searching her body was too much. It wasn't fair to her, and it's against the rules that protect our rights.

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Footnotes and Citation

Cite

Brief of Amicus Curiae Juvenile Law Center in Support of Appellant and Reversal, Nicole Mabry, as Mother and Next Friend of T.M., a Minor, v. Lee County, No. 16-60231 (5th Cir.).

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