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Supreme Court OKs Strip Searches for All Arrests

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This one is just rich.


There's nothing unconstitutional or unreasonable about law enforcement officers conducting strip searches on every person they arrest, no matter how trivial the offense, the Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision. The case stemmed from an arrest in New Jersey in 2005, in which one Albert W. Florence was wrongly incarcerated for eight days. Florence's jail experience began with a guard ordering him to strip in front of several officers and other prisoners, telling him, "Turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks."


Florence had been in the passenger seat of a car driven by his wife when she was pulled over for speeding (his 4-year-old son was in the back). In the glovebox, he had a copy of a 2003 document proving he'd paid a court-imposed fine stemming from a traffic offense. But the officer who ran his ID mistakenly believed the fine had not been paid, and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. He spent over a week in jail while waiting for the discrepancy to be resolved, and during that time he was strip-searched twice.


Nothing wrong with that, the Supreme Court ruled today! Anyone arrested and mixed in with the general population in a jail "may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority decision. "It is not surprising that correctional officials have sought to perform thorough searches at intake for disease, gang affiliation and contraband. Jails are often crowded, unsanitary and dangerous places. There is a substantial interest in preventing any new inmate, either of his own will or as a result of coercion, from putting all who live or work at these institutions at even greater risk when he is admitted to the general population."


Other judges who have upheld cops' rights to look where the sun don't shine have argued that there is a risk that people will hide contraband in their bodies and then go out and get arrested, for the purposes of smuggling stuff into jail. Of course, that still doesn't solve the problem of people orally ingesting drugs and weapons and getting arrested, so it's only a matter of time before they start with the mandatory stomach pumps for all detainees.


In his dissent for the other liberal judges, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that corrections officials should have reasonable suspicion that the person arrested is a threat before subjecting them to a strip search that is "inherently harmful, humiliating, and degrading. And the harm to privacy interests would seem particularly acute where the person searched may well have no expectation of being subject to such a search, say, because she had simply received a traffic ticket for failing to buckle a seatbelt, because he had not previously paid a civil fine, or because she had been arrested for a minor trespass."


Kennedy was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito wrote a separate decision emphasizing that their ruling was meant to be applied specifically to prisoners entering the general population.




Unbelievable. You get wrongly arrested as a passenger in a car going just over the speed limit and you spend a week and half in jail while undergoing nude searches. And the Supreme Court says that's quite alright. America, land of the free(-ish).

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