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Supreme Court: "Strip Searches Even For Minor Offenses"

By Pete Williams, NBC News chief justice correspondent

Siding with security needs over privacy rights, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that jailers may subject people arrested for minor offenses to invasive strip searches.

By a 5-4 vote, the court rejected a challenge from a New Jersey man who argued it's unconstitutional to force everyone to strip down for inspection. Albert Florence was arrested by a state trooper because of an error in the state's records that mistakenly said he was wanted on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine. Even if the warrant had been valid, failure to pay a fine is not a crime in New Jersey.
Florence was held for a week in two different jails before the charges were dropped. But at each jail, he was required to shower with delousing soap and undergo a strip search.

Florence's lawyers argued such seaches are unconstitutional unless police have reason to believe the subject is carrying a weapon or drugs.

But the court's majority said it's difficult for jail officials to know who's dangerous and who isn't among the 13 million prisoners they process each year because criminal records are often not available at the time of intake. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The court also noted that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was initially arrested for not having a license plate on his car and that one of the 9/11 terrorists was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93. "People detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals," the court said

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Scary Power and Insanity of Supreme Court

...So Justice Breyer was the lone hold-out on strip searching innocent people.

Good guy? Well, here's what he said about O'Bama Care:


So the key to passing legislation is to make it so long and complicated (like the Patriot Act and now the Health Care legislation) that our Supreme Court Justices say..."you expect me to read all of this. No of course I have not read all of this, should I have one of my court clerks read it?"

So they spend days hearing oral arguments for and against legislation they have not read. Then it is the *Law of the Land* and we have to live with it.


Wow. So sick. And these folks deciding our futures are for life.


I'm OK with them not reading it...

...if their logic is: "This part that I did read is unconstitutional, wading through the rest to see if we can save parts of it is completely infeasible, therefore the whole law gets tossed."

After that if congress wants to put together another law that contains only the salvageable bits, they are free to do so. And if they care about their laws not getting tossed like this, maybe they can learn to write laws that are smaller and to the point instead of multi-thousand page monstrosities (or at least put in a severability clause). Oh, and maybe try writing laws that actually conform to the constitution.

In fact, any law not containing an applicable severability clause and containing any unconstitutional bits should be 100% tossed. This is because laws tend to be patchworks of compromises and deals. Consider the case where 1/3 of congress wanted A, 1/3 wanted B, and they agreed to cooperate and write a bill that is A+B. (Say A and B both cost taxpayer money, so neither group would agree to the increased taxes to pay for the other unless they were getting something out of the deal as well.) Then SCOTUS finds that A is unconstitutional and throws out A but keeps B intact. You now have a law on the books which was not, and could not have been, passed by congress.

Note that it's up to the lawyers arguing the case to point out the unconstitutional bits so the judges can read those bits. If you require SCOTUS to read the entirety of any bill that comes before them, you are just setting them up for a DoS attack by congress.

I have a similar view when it comes to congress passing laws in the first place. If a member of congress sees that a bill contains some unconstitutional or otherwise unacceptable garbage, or is simply too long/complex to actually read/comprehend (or uniformly enforce), they don't need to read the whole bill before voting 'no' -- that's perfectly moral and acceptable. However, anyone who votes 'yes' without reading and understanding the bill in its entirety should be tried for treason, and executed if found guilty.

Mixed feelings

This says it is for people in jail. Frankly if I am being detained, I want to make sure the guy next to me doesn't have something because I know I will be in no position to defend my self.


Pottawattamie County Iowa

"Capitalism should not be condemned, since we haven't had capitalism." -Dr. Ron Paul

right decision.

As someone coming from a law background, this is the right ruling. As someone stated earlier, this is jail not your local airport. Imagine this situation: what if Jose had an irk with a rival gang in the jail and wanted to shank Julio? Then Jose's buddy Pedro decided to sneak a weapon into jail for Jose. So pedro decides to not pay for a parking ticket to get a warrant on himself and since its a minor offense he doesn't get strip searched and passes off the weapon to Jose. We can't have this! The real issue here is not the strip search, it is that this guy was arrested when he shouldn't have been.

Probable Cause

The issue, imho, is probable cause. I didn't read it all, but I thought it said something like the jailer doesn't always know why he is taken in... Sounds like, for want of administration, they'll overlook probable cause and just strip everyone. Just because someone is speeding does not give probable cause that he as a weapon up his hoop.
I believe the proper solution is for the prosecuting agency/officer to show cause why the inmate should be strip searched. Perhaps another solution would be to have two types of holding "jails" - one for civil/regulatory offenses, the other for criminal offenses (i.e. trespassing on someone's rights).
But the judges reasons sighting conveniences, or the lack there of, as being a reason to say it is okay is, imho, unacceptable. And suggesting other characters who were ticketed and then blowing up buildings/airplanes as justification is a farce.


You are talking about Jail NOT prison their is a very big Difference.

Seems to me we already pretty

Seems to me we already pretty much go through this at the airport too. Pretty soon we will have to remove our skin for government's folly.

If you walk blindly through life, you will run into a lot of walls.

Time to Reconsider That Statement

That is no reason to give the government permission to kidnap an innocent person and abuse them without penalty to the government or compensation to the victim.

Using this logic, we should take guns off the streets because someone might go berserk and create a danger to the public.

Gene Louis
Supporting a Needed Tool for Government Feedback:
A Citizen-Operated Legal System.

It shouldn't happen

But it does and it will never change,Society accepts it as normal to treat a criminal this way because he is already "Guilty" as soon as he is arrested just because a cop said so.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.


"He should not have been arrested in the first place" this is the fact. The strip search process has been happening for probably 70 years or more and has been accepted by society as normal "Proccessing" for an inmate and they don't care.It is just another part of the "Punishment" as far as they are concerned.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.


doesn't seem to believe in the usconstitution.



You can't get clean in a dirty bathtub.


I dont believe in the consitution? Thats the type of attitude right there that drive people away from our cause.

How exactly is it unconstitutional to conduct strip searches in the interest of inmate and officer safety? A true constitutionalist would believe in the importance of checks and balances and that the 4th ammendment is open to interpretation. Unreasonable searches doesnt mean ALL searches.

I think he is right about the arrest

Consttutionally it should have never happened in the first place. This is the real constitutional way to see it. Really this has been going on for decades and will never change.once you are in the system you are stuck with no rights. You waive your rights when you get your 72 hour preliminary hearing.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

Maybe they should stop

Maybe they should stop arresting and jailing people for "minor offenses."

or at least have a special "express line" for the minor offenses

outfitted with last travel season's TSA whole body scanners : )


This is a misuse of jails.

Hopefully we can start seeing new laws that guarantee generous compensation when the government cannot prove their case.

Something like a guaranteed one thousand dollars per day plus damages.

If someone loses a job, uses up their vacation, or has their reputation destroyed, the victim of government abuse should not have to be the one who pays for it.

The penalty would be an incentive for the government to be careful about where they use their unlimited power.

Gene Louis
Supporting a Needed Tool for Government Feedback:
A Citizen-Operated Legal System.


Sick, sick, sick! Enough is enough already! Is there any free countries left on this planet? Because this one isn't anymore!;-/

Sorry, dude, you don't have

Sorry, dude, you don't have "freedoms" in jail. Imagine people could refuse strip searches in jail/prison. Let's not go overboard. He should sue if he was falsely mistreated or jailed.

If you disagree with me on anything you are not a real libertarian...

Not a dude! And eventually...

...This will be practice when you get pulled over for burnt out light bulb or something! EEWW! My mistake though...thought they could do for any reason anywhere. Oops!

only if they find us attractive

probably at their own discretion in matters of traffic violations.



another messy issue

Someone held after booking should feel at least KIND of safe from getting a shiv in their thigh. Its not like boarding a plane- its jail. I would think some extra uncomfy precautions may be necessary. May be cheaper to pay some compo to the innocents who have fallen through the cracks and were searched than to pay families for loved ones murdered by weapons that were sneaked in. Personally under those circumstances I could wrap my head around it. If youre unfortunate enough to be pulled into the corrections system, a strip search may just be something you need to tack onto the indignity of it all.

Perhaps a traffic officer should see to it that Kennedy and his

family are arrested falsely one day and strip searched.

I'd be he might not like it too much, and may even reconsider his decision.

What a shithead.

Seriously? Is this the level of "reasoning" we get from SUPREME COURT justices? I'd expect as much from some clueless gen y punk, or some suburbanite more concerned with Dancing with the Stars than Liberty.

What an embarrassment to the Court and to America.

Pretty disgusting

The facts of the case show false arrest and hopefully this man will win a civil suit against NJ. But this is a very bad precedent and even worse logic. For every Timothy McVeigh in that population of 13 million there are also 12.5 million non-violent offenders who are being treated like sociopaths. What a dismal excuse for a "justice" system.

reedr3v's picture

Unlimited abusive power just handed over

to the Brutes of the system. If only the Supremes could personally "benefit" from this new invasion.