Can Condoms Be Compelling? Examining the State Interest in Confiscating Condoms from Suspected Sex Workers

November 1, 2013

Confiscating condoms from suspected sex workers leaves them at risk for HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancy. Yet, police officers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles collect condoms from sex workers to use against them as evidence of prostitution. Sometimes, the condoms are taken solely for the purpose of harassment. These actions put sex workers at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases because they may continue to engage in sex work without using protection.

In the landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court established a fundamental privacy right in the use and access of contraceptive devices. While this right has been examined in the context of married couples and individuals, it has not been applied to the confiscation of condoms, a contraceptive device, by police officers. This Note shows that by taking condoms from suspected sex workers, police officers and departments are actually violating sex workers’ constitutional right to privacy, and, therefore, the practice must be abandoned.

November 2013

No. 2