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Supreme Court

Supreme Court says police can strip search citizens for any offense

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Supreme Court, strip search, police

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(NaturalNews) The constitutional indignities Americans continue to suffer at what can only be called soft tyranny continue to mount, the most recent of which is a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that says police can now strip search for any reason - or no reason at all - when they're booking you into custody.

In a 5-4 ruling earlier this month, justices said police have the right to conduct strip searches even if they don't believe a suspect is carrying or hiding contraband.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy - who was joined by the high court's four other conservatives - said the Judicial branch was in no position to interfere with the judgment of police who were concerned that suspects could be hiding weapons, contraband or gang-related affiliations.

"Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," Kennedy wrote, noting that some 13 million people annually are jailed.

Only, there's a problem: Strip search procedures conflict with statutes in 10 states which forbid the procedure. Also, the high court's ruling is at odds with federal policy as well. As if this wasn't enough, the American Bar Association filed a brief in the case noting that international human rights treaties also ban the procedure.

Unfortunately, no clear opinion before the high court case

Complicating the issue - or perpetuating it, actually - was the fact that lower federal courts were split on the issue, though the bulk of those rulings essentially prohibited the procedure, unless they were based on some reasonable suspicion that a strip search would turn up contraband or other relevant case-related evidence.

Moreover, the high court actually took a back-handed approach in its ruling. Rather than simply saying a strip search of all new arrestees was legal, justices said instead that the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment didn't actually prohibit them. Oh really?

The April 2 ruling gets even more baffling. According to The New York Times:

"The majority and dissenting opinions on Monday agreed that the search procedures the decision allowed - close visual inspection by a guard while naked - were more intrusive than being observed while showering, but did not involve bodily contact (our emphasis)."

Forgive us, but now the high court is basing its decision on which naked search procedure is... more invasive than the other?

Strip searches for big crimes - and really small crimes

In writing for the minority, Justice Steven Breyer said the strip searches allowed by the majority were "a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy," adding the procedure should be used rarely and only when police had a good reasonable suspicion of finding contraband or other damning evidence.

While some lower federal courts agreed, many others didn't. In fact, there is a trend among lower courts in Atlanta, San Francisco and Philadelphia, where rulings have supported strip searches for anyone being admitted to a jail - for just about any violation.

The New York Times said that, according to rulings from these lower courts, people can be strip searched for unpaid child support, driving without a license and violation of leash laws. In fact, citing examples from briefs filed in the Supreme Court case, Breyer wrote that some people had been subjected to "the humiliation of a visual strip search" after being arrested for a noisy muffler, riding a bicycle without a bell and failure to use a turn signal.

He even wrote that a nun was strip searched following her arrest for an anti-war protest (this example sounds like it could have been a TSA agent).

The court's case stemmed from the arrest of Albert W. Florence in New Jersey in 2005. He was in the passenger seat of his BMW when his wife, who was driving, was pulled over for speeding by a state trooper. Florence was arrested for an unpaid fine (though it was later discovered that the fine had been paid).

In the jail, he recalls being made to stand naked in front of a guard and asked to move various body parts, though he says the guard never touched him.

"Turn around," he says he was told. "Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks."

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