SCOTUS Broadens Jailhouse Strip-Search Rule
Posted on Apr 2, 2012
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that U.S. Supreme Court justices voted along party lines when approving, on a 5-4 vote, the expansion of strip-searching guidelines to include anyone who’s been arrested for any offense and is en route to jail. —KA
The New York Times:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations.
... The federal courts of appeal were divided over whether blanket policies requiring jailhouse strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses violate the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches. At least seven had ruled that such searches were proper only if there was a reasonable suspicion that the arrested person had weapons or contraband.
Justice Kennedy said the most relevant precedent was Bell v. Wolfish, which was decided by a 5-to-4 vote in 1979. It allowed strip-searches of people held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York after “contact visits” with outsiders.
As in the Bell case, Justice Kennedy wrote, “the undoubted security imperatives involved in jail supervision override the assertion that some detainees must be exempt from the more invasive search procedures at issue absent reasonable suspicion of a concealed weapon or other contraband.”
Albert Florence sits at home last October in Bordentown, N.J., with his attorney, Susan Chana Lask. In a 5-4 decision Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against Florence, who faced strip searches in two county jails following his arrest.