Bell v. Wolfish

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Bell v. Wolfish
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 16, 1979
Decided May 14, 1979
Full case name Griffin Bell, Attorney General, et al. v. Wolfish, et al.
Citations 441 U.S. 520 (more)
99 S. Ct. 1861; 60 L. Ed. 2d 447; 1979 U.S. LEXIS 100
Prior history Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit strip searches and similar intrusive conduct against persons being held in federal prison while awaiting trial.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by Burger, Stewart, White, Blackmun
Concur/dissent Powell
Dissent Marshall
Dissent Stevens, joined by Brennan
Laws applied
U.S. Const., amend. IV

Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979), is a case in which the United States Supreme Court found that it was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment to perform intrusive body searches on pre-trial detainees.[1]


This case arose as a challenge to the conditions under which pretrial defendants are confined. The petitioners claimed that in the absence of a conviction, subjecting incarcerated defendants automatically to the same conditions as convicted felons was unconstitutional punishment. The federal district court agreed with this view, holding that defendants could only be deprived of liberty as a matter of "compelling necessity".[1] It was also determined that The Supreme Court felt that the possible innocence of pre-trial detainees should not prevent corrections officials from taking necessary steps to maintain their facility.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bell v. Wolfish". Medical and Public Health Law Site. Retrieved 2008-01-25.