Are Jail Strip Searches Unconstitutional?

NJ strip-search case reaches Supreme Court
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2011 9:06 AM CDT

(Newser) – Is it unconstitutional to strip-search every new inmate entering a jail? The Supreme Court will consider that question next month when it hears the case of Albert Florence, a 35-year-old New Jersey man who spent a week in jail because of a warrant that wrongfully said he was wanted for nonpayment of a fine. Florence is suing the two jails where he was strip-searched and detained, arguing that searching him for contraband when he had been arrested for a minor offense violated his constitutional protection against unreasonable searches, reports the Washington Post.

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He's joined in the suit by people strip-searched after being arrested for "driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal, and riding a bicycle without an audible bell," Florence's lawsuit states. The humiliating treatment, he says, is something he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy. The American Bar Association is backing his case. "Nearly 14 million Americans are arrested each year,"and many arrests “do not involve violence or drugs and do not suggest a motive or opportunity to smuggle contraband into a prison," the association wrote in a brief to the court. The appeals court that earlier rejected Florence's claim wrote that "preventing the introduction of weapons and drugs into the prison environment is a legitimate interest of concern for prison administrators." (Read more American Bar Association stories.)

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