If you find yourself being cuffed - arrested for even the most minor of offense - know that law enforcement officers have every right to visually inspect every cavity of your being. So says the United States Supreme Court, which ruled by a 5-4 vote Monday that law enforcement officials are within their rights to visually strip-search people arrested for any offense - even the small ones - before admitting them to jail. The statement holds true even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.
More from the NYT:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court's conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs, but also public health and information about gang affiliations.
"Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," Justice Kennedy wrote, adding that about 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation's jais.
In the Court's dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that strip-searches constituted ""a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy," and warned that they should only be utilized when there's good reason to do so. Breyer also contended that the Fourth Amendment should be interpreted to bar strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence
The case, Florence v. County of Burlington, No. 10-945, in which Albert W. Florence was mistakenly arrested on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine (that was actually paid) and subsequently strip searched at jails in New Jersey's Burlington and Essex Counties - reached the Supreme Court after federal appeals courts had been divided on the issue. The NYT piece notes that while most appeals courts prohibited strip searches unless there was reasonable cause to believe drugs were present, recent decisions in San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia allowed strip searches for anyone admitted to a jail's general population.
Of particular note to local audiences, the NYT reports that during proceedings, "Justice Kennedy said one person arrested for disorderly conduct in Washington State "managed to hide a lighter, tobacco, tattoo needles and other prohibited items in his rectal cavity."
Needless to say, that's a lot of stuff crammed into someone's ass.