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SCOTUS: Strip Searches Even for Minor Offenses. When Does Security Trump Privacy?

Albert W. Florence was riding in the passenger seat of his car when his wife was pulled over for speeding. When the investigating officer searched his records he found Mr. Florence had a warrant out for his arrest for an unpaid fine. It turns out Mr. Florence had, in fact, paid the fine, but that did not keep him out of jail for a week. 

Incarcerated in two different counties, Mr. Florence was also subjected to two strip-searches, which he said were so humiliating it “made me feel less than a man.”

Fortunately, Mr. Florence had legal remedies. After all, doesn’t the Fourth Amendment protect him from unreasonable searches, especially given the fact that his offense was so minor? Not so, said the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling

The court’s reasoning? 13 million Americans are put into jail each year. The high court is in no position to second-guess the judgment of corrections officials who have the responsibility to keep these crowded, unsanitary and dangerous places safe. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority:

“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.”

So that means you can be strip-searched even if you have committed a minor offense. 

What do you think of the court’s ruling? Is it more important to maintain security, or, as the dissenting judges argued, is it more important to maintain “human dignity”? Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


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