Subsequent to the humiliating strip searches, Florence filed a lawsuit against the two jails for Fourth Amendment violations. He claimed that the strip searches violated his right to privacy because officials had no reason to believe that he was concealing weapons or contraband as he was arrested only for speeding and a warrant for failing to pay a fine (1).
Florence took his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. On Monday, April 2, 2012, seven years after the incident, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that jail/prison officials may strip-search anyone arrested for any offense, no matter how minor the offense is, upon entering the person into the jail or prison. This can happen even if officials have no suspicion of weapons or contraband being hid (2). This essentially means that, if you are arrested for not wearing your seat belt and are taken into custody, jail officials can conduct a strip search, even though the offense was not wearing your seat belt.
Jails and prisons are dangerous places that are full of weapons and contraband, which is the point of view that the majority writes from. In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy stated that, "maintaining safety and order at (detention) institutions requires the expertise of correctional officials, who must have substantial discretion to devise reasonable solutions to the problems they face . . . the seriousness of an offense is a poor predictor of who has contraband" (3). According to Kennedy, there are numerous cases where people arrested for minor crimes have been caught trying to conceal contraband in their body. One example is a person who was arrested for disorderly conduct in Washington State who “managed to hide a lighter, tobacco, tattoo needles and other prohibited items in his rectal cavity” (2).
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer contradicts Kennedy’s justification that strip searches are the only effective means of detecting contraband. In his dissenting opinion, he cited a study of 23,000 people admitted to a correctional facility in New York in which the guards used a “reasonable suspicion” standard when conducting strip searches. As long as the reasonable suspicion standard was used, there might be one instance of contraband getting into the facility (2).
“In my view, such a search of an individual arrested for a minor offense that does not involve drugs or violence . . . is an unreasonable search forbidden by the Fourth Amendment” and is a “serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy.” (1) –Justice Breyer
I personally think that the Court has gone too far in allowing this kind of conduct by officials. It gives them the power to strip anyone down accused of any crime and conduct an invasive and embarrassing search. What do you guys think??