Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that strip searches for any unlawful activity are legal now, meaning persons arrested for any crime run the risk of having to take off their clothes in front of authorities. These searches can be performed without reasonable suspicion of contraband or gang-tattooed affiliation, meaning that crimes involving no illegal substances, gang activity or weapons can still prompt a full-body search.
Arrested for riding a bike without a helmet? J-walking? Driving without a seat belt? Walking your dog without a leash? Take off your pants.
The decision was made in order to strengthen the safety of fellow jail inmates and jailhouse workers. However, the decision is just begging to be taken advantage of. Sure, the examples just mentioned are extremes, but that doesn’t make them any less possible.
Minor offenders in small town jails can now be stripped completely naked before they even see a trial. The decision is put in the hands of the jail worker who handles new inmates, and such a position has never before been so solidly offered the ability to demand arbitrary strip-downs.
Unfortunately, while the decision was emphasized as being targeted at offenders who may pose a threat to fellow inmates, the fact is that “innocent until proven guilty” may grant you your freedom, but not your dignity. Even if a person is mistakenly arrested, he or she can be strip searched.
The decision was made after New Jersey resident Albert Florence was mistakenly arrested for an unpaid fine. He spent a week behind bars and was strip searched twice in two county jails.
This decision, much like invasive searches through airport security, has been cited as going directly against the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which expressly states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” If no contraband, disease, or gang affiliation is suspected, wouldn’t a strip search be considered “unreasonable”?
At least ten states have laws that currently ban strip searches against offenders that don’t prompt suspicion of contraband, and luckily, the Supreme Court’s decision also included a state’s individual right to determine when and how strip searches should be doled out.
However, the decision makes any backlash by those at the mercy of strip searches fruitless—innocent or guilty, minor offense or major, a strip search is not only legal, it’s protected by the Supreme Court.
Image taken from dcaligari.blogspot.com