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ACLU sues over SF sheriff subjecting people on ankle monitors to ‘unlimited’ search and surveillance conditions

Details of Sheriff Paul Miyamoto’s uniform | Camille Cohen

San Francisco’s sheriff was hit with a new lawsuit for allegedly subjecting people released from jail on ankle monitors to broad search and surveillance conditions that civil liberties attorneys say are unconstitutional.

The suit filed Thursday by the ACLU of Northern California targets two rules that Sheriff Paul Miyamoto allegedly requires inmates to sign off on as a condition of their release. One involves consenting to a warrantless search of themselves, their home, car or property. The other is an acknowledgement that the sheriff may share their location data with any law enforcement agency.

The lawsuit asks a judge to block Miyamoto from imposing the rules and asks for all location data collected from the ankle monitors to be destroyed as soon as a person’s case is over.

“Ankle cuffs are supposed to ensure that an individual remains in the Bay Area and shows up for court proceedings,” Shilpi Agarwal, a legal director for the ACLU of Northern California, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “They are not a license for law enforcement’s unlimited search and surveillance of vulnerable people who haven’t been convicted of a crime.”

The law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati joined in ACLU’s suit on behalf of various plaintiffs, including three people still on ankle monitors and subject to the rules. Namely, Joshua Simon, 19, David Barber, 43, and Josue Bonilla, 40.

The plaintiffs are among more than 200 people subject to the electronic monitoring rules while awaiting trial, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit says inmates are directed to sign a form agreeing to the two rules after a judge orders their supervised release, and many sign the document because the alternative is they remain behind bars.

Simon signed the form to get out of jail and attend his high school graduation. Barber wanted to get out to keep his home and job, and to take care of his cat. The third named plaintiff, Bonilla, has a disability that made jail “especially uncomfortable and burdensome,” the complaint says.

In response to the lawsuit, sheriff spokesperson Tara Moriarty said the sheriff does not require people on ankle monitors to “waive any rights.”

“Only the court does that,” Moriarty said.

“The court’s required Fourth Amendment waiver allows the Sheriff’s Office to enforce the rules and regulations imposed by the court, which is what the information on the sheriff’s forms states,” Moriarty added.

The sheriff contracts with Sentinel Offender Services, LLC, to administer the ankle monitoring program. According to the complaint, the sheriff and Sentinel track the location of all participants 24/7. Sentinel stores the data and gives the sheriff monthly reports.

Moriarty said the sheriff shares location data with other agencies on request but is “not aware that a requesting agency has used this information for an improper purpose."

A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, which represents the sheriff in court, said its lawyers will review the complaint and “respond appropriately” once they’ve been served.

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