DANGEROUS Precident - Strip Searches for Minor Offenses!

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DANGEROUS Precident - Strip Searches for Minor Offenses!

Post by NotRepublicanOrDemocrat on Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:00 am

Imagine that you are a passenger in a car that gets pulled over by a law enforcement officer for speeding.  The officer takes and checks the driver’s identification, as well as yours, and discovers a warrant for your arrest.  The warrant was issued for an unpaid fine. But you’ve already paid the fine since its issue.
Now imagine your shock when you get arrested and are forced to suffer through a week in jail and two different strip searches in which corrections officials force you to strip off your clothes, and invasively search your body. If you think such injustice could never happen in the United States of America – the home of the free – over an error, you’d be mistaken. Unfortunately, for Albert Florence – a New Jersey man – this injustice was a reality.  Unfortunately, for all of us, a divided United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that such strip searches are constitutional –even over minor offenses.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Florence v. County of Burlington is a threat to the privacy of every citizen and should alarm even those who usually support the decisions of law enforcement officials.  It is clear that strip searching citizens for minor offenses, without any reasonable suspicion that the citizen is carrying a weapon or contraband, can be easily abused and can lead to law-abiding citizens facing needless humiliation.
From a press release by the American Civil Liberties Union:
“Today’s decision jeopardizes the privacy rights of millions of people who are arrested each year and brought to jail, often for minor offenses,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU. “Being forced to strip naked is a humiliating experience that no one should have to endure absent reasonable suspicion. Jail security is important, but it does not require routinely strip searching everyone who is arrested for any reason, including traffic violations, and who may be in jail for only a few hours. ”
Albert W. Florence, a finance executive for an auto dealership, challenged his two strip searches stemming from an incident where his wife was pulled over for speeding in their 2005 BMW.  Sadly, an error with the state’s reporting system led law enforcement officers to believe that Mr. Florence was still wanted for an unpaid fine that he had actually paid.



Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip-searches the majority allowed were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so.
Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband.
Monday’s decision endorsed a recent trend, from appeals courts in Atlanta, San Francisco and Philadelphia, allowing strip-searches of everyone admitted to a jail’s general population. At least seven other appellate courts –on the other hand – had ruled that such searches were proper only if there was a reasonable suspicion that the arrested person had contraband.
According to opinions in the lower courts, people may be strip-searched after arrests for violating a leash law, driving without a license and failing to pay child support. Citing examples from briefs submitted to the Supreme Court, Justice Breyer wrote that people have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip-search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.
A nun was strip-searched, he wrote, after an arrest for trespassing during  a peaceful antiwar demonstration; as were victims of sexual assaults, women who were menstruating.

To many, invasive strip searches of nuns engaging in peaceful protest – or civilians arrested on the basis of clerical errors– would seem to occur only in a dystopian science fiction movie. Tragically, this is precisely the brand of injustice that the so-called conservative Supreme Court views as legitimate under the United States Constitution. Fortunately, for the citizens of 10 states, such strip searches for minor offenses remain illegal under state law.  It appears that more states will need to enact such laws to protect its citizens from the constitutional opinions of our current Supreme Court.
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