Monday, April 2, 2012
U.S. Supreme Court rules that strip searches are allowable no matter what the alleged offense
In a 5 to 4 vote the Supreme Court decided that any law enforcement official can do a strip search on any person under arrest. The severity of the alleged offense makes no difference.
In fact a case examined by the court involved one Albert Florence who was arrested for a supposedly unpaid parking fine. Actually the fine had been paid in full.
Florence spent a week behind bars before it was discovered that he had actually paid the fine. Florence said he was made to strip then squat and manipulate his genitals so that officers could check for drugs, gang related marks and disease.
Florence had argued that this treatment over a minor offense--that was actually no offense at all--violated his rights under the 4th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. At an initial hearing a Federal District Court agreed. The case eventually wound its way up to the Supreme Court.
. Those voting in favor of the carte blanche for strip searches argued that they could not say how officers should deal with incoming detainees. They noted that it is often in the interests of enforcement of the law that all suspects be strip searched no matter what the alleged offense. The majority judgment noted:"People detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals,"
Florence along with dissenting judges said that those detained should not all be subjected to the sort of treatment that Florence experienced. Dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer said in such circumstances the strip search was:“a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy.” The justice noted that in some jurisdictions a person could be subjected to this treatment just for violating a leash law. For more see this article.