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7th woman files a lawsuit in Davis jail strip searches

A seventh woman has filed a federal lawsuit accusing Davis County Jail officials of subjecting her to an illegal strip search.

Ramona Duquette, 37, said she was "shocked and embarrassed" when jail personnel forced her to disrobe after she was arrested for a traffic violation in 1994.Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, the suit says male jail officers watched and made "lewd and suggestive comments" as she was forced to strip.

The allegations are similar to those contained in six previous lawsuits filed against the jail and various law enforcement agencies during the past five years. All of the alleged illegal strip searches occurred between 1990 and 1995, after which Davis County revised its strip search procedures.

According to the latest lawsuit, Duquette was pulled over by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper on June 6, 1994, while driving on I-15 in Davis County. The suit said that although Duquette presented no danger, she was handcuffed and taken to the Davis County Jail on charges of driving under the influence.

At the jail, she was required to remove her outer clothing in front of a female officer, several male officers and some civilians. The suit said the strip search was unnecessary because it was "plainly visible" to the officers that she had no contraband or weapons hidden beneath her tight summer clothing.

The suit said Duquette was forced to stand in her underwear for several minutes while officers made lewd comments. Afterward, she was so shaken and embarrassed by what had happened that she couldn't bring herself to leave the jail bathroom until relatives arrived to take her home.

Like most of the other suits, Duquette's seeks $200,000 in general damages plus special damages to be determined at trial. Half the suits have already been settled out of court for amounts ranging between $30,000 and $50,000.

In a ruling involving one of the cases last year, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a strip search is not justified in the absence of reasonable suspicion that the arrested person has drugs or weapons hidden on her person.

The federal judges also said the Davis County sheriff's office could not claim immunity from the lawsuits.

Davis County legal officials have said they will contest any of the suits that they believe are based on unwarranted allegations.