The Supreme Court may use the New Jersey case of Albert Florence to decide whether jails can order strip searches of people accused of minor offenses, says the New York Times. Florence was strip-searched twice while jailed on an erroneous charge of failing to pay a fine.
Federal appellate courts are divided on whether blanket policies requiring jailhouse strip-searches of people arrested for minor crimes violate the Fourth Amendment. Eight courts have ruled that such searches are proper only if there is a reasonable suspicion that the arrested person has weapons or contraband. More recently, courts in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Philadelphia have allowed searches no matter how minor the charge. Some potential examples cited by dissenting judges in those cases: violating a leash law, driving without a license, failing to pay child support. Judges in Florence’s case said they had been presented with no evidence that the searches were needed, but ruled that they would not second-guess corrections officials who said they feared that people like Florence would smuggle contraband into their jails.