Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Police Photo of Tattoo Wasn’t a Strip Search

(CN) - Police did not violate a Missouri woman's rights by making her disrobe partially in order to photograph her tattoo, the 8th Circuit ruled.

Jami Schmidt, 20, gave police a false name, address, and Social Security number after the car she was riding in was stopped for several moving violations. She was arrested and charged with making a false declaration and being a minor in possession of alcohol.

Bella Villa Police Chief Edward Locke Jr., who stopped the vehicle, took a photo of Schmidt's butterfly tattoo as an identifying mark. The tattoo is located two inches from her hipbone, and Schmidt had to unbutton her jeans to reveal it.

Schmidt sued the city and Locke on municipal liability, tort and constitutional claims. The trial court granted summary judgment to Locke and the city, and Judge Gibson of the St. Louis-based federal appeals court affirmed the decision.

Gibson ruled that the unbuttoning of Schmidt's pants did not qualify as a strip search, because it was in private and was only enough to reveal the tattoo. Also, Schmidt had provided Locke with false information.

"Under the circumstances," Gibson wrote, "Locke was justified in photographing Schmidt's tattoo as an identifying mark."

Gibson also ruled that the trial court properly struck the Schmidt's admission of a photo that allegedly depicted the original photographic conditions.

"The jeans worn in the exhibit are not the same jeans worn by Schmidt during the photographing," Schmidt noted, "nor are they arranged in the same manner."

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