The Supreme Court Ruled by a 5-4 vote that it is legal for law enforcement to strip search a person arrested for any crime whatsoever, even if there is no suspected contraband present.
“Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
At least 10 states have statutes that contradict this ruling. International human rights treaties also forbid such activities.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer was among the four dissenting judges. He wrote that these strip searches are “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy,” and violate fourth amendment rights.
The ruling stemmed from a 2005 case (Albert v. Florence) in which Mr. Florence was arrested in New Jersey for an unpaid fine (which had actually already been paid). Mr. Florence was detained for a week and was strip searched several times.
“Yet another effort to chisel away at our fourth amendment rights,” says defense lawyer Stacy Kaye. “Fortunately, the Minnesota constitution offers more protection with regard to arrest than the federal constitution, which allows arrest even for petty misdemeanors and very minor misdemeanors. The Minnesota supreme court has declined to follow that ruling (Atwater) but still, unless our courts decline to follow this particular federal precedent, it would seem to allow strip searches of anyone who was legitimately arrested, even if the cops had no basis to suspect they were hiding any weapons or contraband. So much for the right to decline a search.”