Siding with security needs over privacy rights, the Supreme Court ruled today 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, says an msnbc.com report.
Florence's lawyers argued such searches are unconstitutional unless police have reason to believe the subject is carrying a weapon or drugs.
But the court's majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was that 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.