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Entertainment Venues May Be Forced To Abandon Pat Down Searches at Events

pat-down2I have never really understood the purpose of the entertainment venue pat down and search.  I am all for safety, but if searches are going to be conducted, they should be done right.  Not using metal detectors and searching every purse and bag only holds up lines to get into venues and the majority of searches, especially at sporting events is a waste of time.  If a person really wants to sneak in a weapon it’s not hard, simply stick the weapon down ones pants.  Last I checked full body cavity searches aren’t part of the entertainment experience, well not yet anyways.

In San Francisco a couple of 49er fans have had enough and sued the 49ers.  The fans claim that the pat down searches violate their right to privacy.  The California Supreme Court ruled last week that such a search may violate a person’s right to privacy.  The case was remanded back to the California Superior Court due to an insufficient record.  The lower court must determine whether the search measures put in place have a specific purpose and whether that purpose in narrowly tailored, meaning the searches must be less intrusive than alternatives.

The NFL instituted a pat down search policy in 2005 which could be in jeopardy.  I am somebody who on rare occasions carried out similar search policies while working for the NBA’s Seattle Sonics and I can tell you that these policies are unjustified, carried out half assed, and cause fans to get restless if they are subjected to waiting in long lines due to searches after a game has started.  In some cases while I was working, the policies were completely abandoned right before tipoff due to the long lines and complaints.  A professional franchise doesn’t want to risk losing season ticket holders due to the searches so they may cave in or often times most of the searches are being conducted by temp event staff workers who don’t feel like getting yelled at by fans.

If the NFL or any other entertainment venues wants to conduct searches, they should use metal detectors.  Metal detectors are more effective in identifying weapons, less intrusive, and won’t hold up lines during events.  In the 49er case the team will argue that the NFL policies are necessary in order to assure safety, but they may have trouble in arguing that the policies are being carried out in the least intrusive manner.  The issue will be whether a less intrusive manner such as metal detectors would cause a substantial burden on the team.  A substantial burden may come in the form of finances and if it a less intrusive policy costs a lot more money, then it may not be viable.  The ruling in this case will affect all entertainment venues nationwide.  You better believe that all major sports and entertainment organizations will be paying very close attention as to the result of this case.


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Richard J. Symmes, Esq
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