When is it legal to strip search a criminal suspect?
Being subjected to a strip search can be embarrassing and extremely unpleasant, but strip searches are one way that law enforcement ensures they have discovered all hidden evidence and to prevent the passage of contraband in jails and prisons. While most of us don't like to think about it, there is a possibility we could be searched invasively, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the right of law enforcement to perform jail strip searches, even in the case of minor offenses.
The case was 2012's Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, and it involved Albert Florence, who was arrested on a warrant for unpaid citations. In 1998, seven years before the incidents at issue, petitioner Albert Florence plead guilty to two offenses and was sentenced to pay a fine in monthly installments. In 2003, after he fell behind on his payments and failed to appear at an enforcement hearing, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He paid the outstanding balance less than a week later; but, for some unexplained reason, the warrant remained in a statewide computer database. Two years later, in Burlington County, New Jersey, petitioner and his wife were stopped in their automobile by a state trooper. Based on the outstanding warrant in the computer system, the officer arrested petitioner and took him to the Burlington County Detention Center. He was held there for six days and then was transferred to the Essex County Correctional Facility. It is not the arrest or confinement but the search process at each jail that gives rise to the claims before the Court.