Tens of Thousands of Victims Strip Searched in New York Jails Win $50 Million Suit

January 12, 2001

The City of New York will pay $50 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of tens of thousands of people who wereillegally strip searched as part of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s "quality of life" crackdown on minor offenses. Thesettlement was reached after more than two years of negotiation on how to compensate victims who were arrested formisdemeanors such as loitering and traffic offenses and ordered to disrobe by jail guards.

Since Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, was elected mayor in 1993, police have been more aggressive in arrestingpeople for minor offenses, in line with a theory that cracking down on "lifestyle violations" and minor infractionswould help prevent more serious crime and catch perpetrators of major crimes. Strip searches of people charged withminor offenses are prohibited unless there is reason to believe they are concealing weapons or other contraband.

The money will go to as many as 60,000 people in amounts ranging from $250 to $22,500.

Lawyers said the settlement would be the largest in a civil rights suit against New York City and one of the largestagainst a municipality anywhere. It is subject to approval by a federal judge.


  • Richard Emery, lawyer who won the case.
  • Carlos Morales, one of the litigants who was strip searched after being stopped for a broken tail light.
  • Vivian Williams, one of the litigants.