In a closely watched civil liberties case, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday 5-to-4 that police can strip search after a DC, Maryland or Virginia arrest, no matter how minor the violation.

The case, Florence v. County of Burlington, involved a New Jersey man who was strip-searched after being arrested and charged with failure to pay a ticket. The Court held that jail security trumped personal privacy.

The Florence decision further undermines the rights of people charged with minor offenses. The Court has previously given police the green light to arrest for trivial offenses, even if the stop is based on a pretext. Now those arrests can be followed by a strip search.

In the Florence case, Mr. Florence was a passenger in a car driven by his wife, when she was pulled over by the police. The police computer indicated that Mr. Florence, who wasn’t even driving, had not paid an outstanding ticket. 

As it turned out, the computer record was in error. But that didn’t stop the police from arresting Mr. Florence and requiring him to squat down and spread his butt checks for visual inspection by jail authorities.Florence fought the practice all the way to the Supreme Court, until losing yesterday.

The Supreme Court decision runs counter to the law of 10 states, which forbid the practice of strip searches for minor offenses, and the stated policy of Obama administration. No doubt the Supreme Court OK will only widen this humiliating practice.

Categories: Search & Seizure, Supreme Couirt

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