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Lawsuit accuses Newport of violating women’s civil rights in jail booking

An Orange County woman who was arrested in Newport Beach is suing the city, alleging that its Police Department violates women’s civil rights by putting female arrestees through a more arduous process than men when they’re booked into jail.

Connie Barraclough, 52, was driving through Newport Beach around 4 a.m. April 4 last year when a police officer pulled her over, according to the lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Santa Ana.

Barraclough had been drinking earlier that night at an Angels game in Anaheim and was taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to her lawyer, V. James DeSimone. He would not disclose Barraclough’s city of residence.

But instead of booking her at the city jail, police took Barraclough to Orange County Jail in Santa Ana because Newport Beach did not have a female jailer available to process her, the lawsuit claims.

Barraclough alleges she was held for 12 hours at the county facility before being released, whereas the same process at the Newport Beach jail would have taken about three hours.

While in county jail, sheriff’s deputies confiscated her shoes, gave her food she wasn’t able to eat and wouldn’t let her make an additional phone call so she could tell her children what had happened, according to DeSimone, who called the process dehumanizing.

“You’re basically stripped of your dignity when you’re sent to Orange County Jail,” he said.

According to DeSimone, jails in California are required to have female jailers available whenever they’re needed. By not doing so, and instead shifting responsibility to the Orange County Jail, Newport Beach discriminated against Barraclough and other female inmates, according to the lawsuit.

By holding her in jail for 12 hours, authorities appeared to be trying to punish Barraclough for her actions before she was given a fair trial, DeSimone said.

Newport Beach City Attorney Aaron Harp said Friday that he hadn’t had a chance to discuss Barraclough’s allegations with the Police Department, and he declined to comment.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a judge’s order barring the Police Department from treating female inmates the way Barraclough alleges she was handled.

“Her motivation here really is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone again,” DeSimone said.

DeSimone is seeking class-action status for the lawsuit. He said he has already started getting calls about people wanting to join the legal action.

Barraclough ultimately was convicted of two misdemeanors related to her arrest. She pleaded guilty in October to driving under the influence and driving with blood-alcohol content above 0.08%.

A judge sentenced her to probation and a three-month alcohol education program, according to court records.

DeSimone said Barraclough understands she made a mistake.

“There’s a consequence for her actions, but it should be a fair and balanced consequence,” he said.

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jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck


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