Always Make Sure to Wear Clean Underwear!
Last October, we reported about a New Jersey case that would be heard by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of whether jailers can perform invasive strip searches on individuals arrested for minor offenses where there is no reasonable suspicion that the individual has any weapons, drugs, or other contraband on their person. Recently, in the case of Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, the United States Supreme Court held that it is not a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to require all inmates entering a jail or prison to be subject to a strip search, even if there is no reasonable suspicion that the person is in possession of weapons, drugs, or other contraband.
The primary consideration in the Supreme Court’s decision was the notion that maintaining safety and order at detention centers requires that correctional officers have substantial discretion in running their institutions. This was in spite of the fact that the correctional institutions in question in the case could not provide any data to evidence their argument that the invasive strip searches performed without any reasonable suspicion of contraband made the institutions any safer.
The Supreme Court also noted that there are additional reasons for performing visual strip searches that justify their use on inmates who are not suspect of carrying contraband. These reasons include the need to detect incoming inmates who are potentially carrying diseases, and to catalog any signs of potential gang affiliation as part of the intake process. Finally, the Supreme Court noted that the seriousness of the offense for which a person was arrested is a poor indicator of whether a person possesses contraband.
This case only serves to justify the advice that your grandmother gave you as a child: always make sure to wear clean underwear. Law-abiding motorists in New Jersey are often arrested on warrants for minor offenses (ever accidentally miss a court date?) and now there is no doubt that those motorists are fair game for strip searches.