Strip searches for everyone, says US Supreme Court

Posted on April 3, 2012


Unpaid parking tickets? That’s a strip search. And no leash on your doggie? That’s a strip search too. It might sound weird, and a wee bit terrifying, but that’s the verdict out of the United States Supreme Court this week.

The US Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 vote made Monday that law enforcement officials have the right to conduct invasive strip searches on any arrested persons, no matter how minor the alleged offense might be. The decision comes after the highest court in America examined an earlier case in which a man was wrongly arrested due to a processing error over an unpaid fine and then brought to two separate holding facilities where he was subjected to searches he says were“humiliating.

Albert Florence was arrested in New Jersey back in 2005 after his pregnant wife was pulled over for driving their car above the posted speed limit. Responding officers identified Mr. Florence on the scene in the passenger seat and discovered a warrant for his arrest stemming from unpaid fines. An investigation would later reveal that the fines in question had indeed been paid in full, but before law enforcement could come to that conclusion, Mr. Florence spent a week behind bars. While detained, Florence was forced to strip naked, squat and manipulate his genitals twice for inspecting officers examining him for contraband, gang-related markings and communicable diseases.

Florence would go on to argue that the way he was handled over a minor (and incorrect) offense violated his rights under both the Fourth and Fourteen Amendments of the US Constitution, an argument a Federal District Court agreed with during an initial hearing. A Third Circuit Court would later rule, however, that strip-searching nonindictable offenders without reasonable suspicion was not a constitutional violation, which in turn brought the case to the Supreme Court. On Monday, five justices sided with the appeal and agreed that any detained alleged criminal, regardless of the crime, could be strip searched if deemed necessary by law enforcement.


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