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Supreme Court Petitioned To End Misdemeanor Strip Searches

September 15, 2011 by  

Supreme Court Petitioned To End Misdemeanor Strip Searches

A New Jersey man is taking a case of what he calls a violation of his 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Albert Florence was arrested by mistake in 2005 because of a bench warrant issued for a fine he had paid off years earlier. Despite having documentation of compliance with the court, a New Jersey state trooper arrested Florence during a routine traffic stop as his wife and child watched. Florence then spent seven days in jail.

Florence was reportedly strip searched at two separate jails, despite there being no evidence that he had any contraband or violent behaviors. Florence sued and lost and then appealed to a Philadelphia Court of Appeals, where he also lost.

The courts both ruled that it is not unreasonable to search all incoming prisoners, no matter the charge, citing recent appeals court rulings that found there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits blanket strip searches of incoming prisoners.

A 1979 Supreme Court verdict in Bell v. Wolfish sanctioned “the practice of body-cavity searches of inmates following contact visits with persons from outside the institution; and the requirement that pretrial detainees remain outside their rooms during routine inspections.” That decision was once interpreted by Federal courts to mean that reasonable suspicion must be noted before individuals arrested on minor charges are strip searched.

The American Bar Association has backed Florence in his fight, issuing a brief to the Supreme Court.

Nearly 14 million Americans are arrested each year. Many of these arrests are for misdemeanor offenses or a civil infraction that—like the offense of which petitioner was accused—do not suggest a motive or opportunity to smuggle contraband into a prison. Neither the Petitioner nor this majority of arrestees should be subject to the grave intrusion of a strip search on admission to a detention facility unless there is individualized, reasonable suspicion of possession of contraband.

Florence has been joined in his petition for suit against two New Jersey jails by others who have been strip searched following misdemeanor offenses. In the brief, Florence’s attorney outlines other instances in which people arrested for minor offenses were strip searched over the years: Sister Bernie Galvin, a nun arrested in California at an anti-war protest; Bettye Heathcock, arrested in Washington, D.C., for leaving a parking garage because the toll was too high; Karen Masters, arrested in Kentucky for failing to appear in traffic court because she was given the wrong date by the judge; Vivian Anderson Smith, arrested in Maryland for not showing up for a child support hearing. The brief also includes a list of other misdemeanor offenses for which one might be strip searched.

The lawyers also allege in the brief that some officers knowingly conduct unnecessary strip searches because of underlying sadism and desensitization to subjects’ humiliation. The brief cites a book by Phillip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, which is based on a study of a simulated prison in 1971. Zimbardo observed two groups of Stanford University students, one designated prisoners and one designated guards, to observe the effects of the manifestation of absolute power of one individual over another. The study lasted only days before the “guards” became so abusive and degrading to their “prisoner” counterparts that the study had to be ended.

Florence’s lawyer also said in the brief to the court that 18 states, including New Jersey, prohibit search without reasonable suspicion, further supporting the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Free Mind

    Everybody knows the difference between someone who doesn’t show up for a child support hearing and an ax murderer.
    This isn’t about that. It is about government sponsored terror and complete control over the populace. The powers of TSA are agood example. Airport security is not about safety, it is about control.
    The question is, how much are we willing to be subjected to before we have enough courage to say enough is enough? Wake up you [offensive word removed] Americans!

    • iam

      So-called Free Mind: your decision to insult everyone, with or without the use of profanity, negates your spew.

      • A. Smith

        Perhaps it might take a harsh word or two for SOME Americans to wake up and stop being part of the sheeple, who just go where the government POINTS THEM on auto pilot. This is SERIOUS STUFF. Do you have any idea what they are about to do to us if we don’t wake up? Are YOU awake? It sure doesn’t sound like it.

  • Elevenarrows

    Except for the vulgar adjective used, I firmly agree with Free Mind. These incidents occur because Americans fail to rise up in mass to protest them. As long as these things are happening to someone else, no one cares. Those who say, “Well, I didn’t know” are not blameless. Educate yourselves on what is going on in this country and then join with a good organization to fight it. America is rapidly slipping away…our founders would not even recognize her…I’m not sure I do!

    • Free Mind

      what’s wrong with my adjective? Must I candy coat my remarks so as not to offend someone’s plotically correct sensibilities?

      • ValDM

        I’m with 11 arrows; you stooped to vulgarity, when you could have used ANY adjective in its place. Remember there are women on this site that don’t bow to political correctness, an also don’t cuss like sailors.

        As an aside, it’s well-known that anyone using foul language to make a point, does make the point. Unfortunately, the point being made is more about intelligence, or lack thereof.

      • Stunned at sunset

        No, Free Mind, you don’t. It would be nice if everyone refrained from gratuitous vulgarity which, of course, you did not practice in your reply.

        I have to agree with your assessment. It would seem that the frequency of such “police action” has become so common as to suggest that the population is being subjected to it as an “acclimation” technique in which everyone eventually becomes oblivious to it.

        In my own community, a neighbor was arrested and arraigned for “stalking” with absolutely no credible evidence to submit to the court or a criminal background sufficient to warrant the police action. The man was just driving along the road looking for something that had fallen off of his vehicle.

        Later it was learned that the young lady who reported him had both a reputation and a court record of filing such charges on innocent people repeatedly (read: she was a sensationalist). Further investigation revealed that the arresting officer was a personal friend of this young lady’s father.

        The neighbor asked that the charges be dropped because the accuser couldn’t “show cause.” The judge agreed and threw the case out. It still cost my neighbor $500 in attorney’s fees–too little money to justify recovering damages.

        Remember the “lost pants” law suit of Washington, D.C. in 2009? It became an international affront to the dignity of the nation but the courts allowed it to continue in any case–after all, the perpetrator was an “administrative law” judge; they had to allow their own to practice infamy.

        This country has become a joke. Any politician who claims our heritage as a free and independent people ought to be arrested as a threat to society and forced to participate in a psychological therapy program until he is taught to stop lying to everyone. That would keep most of these troublemakers out of the public arena indefinitely.

        This year, I am supporting, campaigning, and voting for candidates who are challenging the status quot. Life has become pretty rude in the home of the brave and the land of the free. We have to start somewhere. Humpty-Dumpty is quite a mess now.

      • Elevenarrows

        Call me crazy, Free Mind, but I still believe in men opening the door for me, people rising to their feet when an elder or important person enter the room, men rising when a lady leaves the table…I certainly understand that not everyone practices common courtesy, but I just placed a discreet reminder in my reply to you hoping you would “get it”. Those who know me (45 caliber are you here today?) can vouch for my lack of appreciation for political correctness. That having been said, I felt I didn’t need to be politically correct and leave you thinking we like to read that. I made a mild objection and supported your other comments. I’m sorry you were so upset about it.

  • Vic Bailey

    People you might as well face it, the Socialist Police State is here to stay because, the Socialist have invaded every branch of our government and the Senate, Congress and even the Supreme Court are Hell Bent on destroying our Constitution and the few rights we have left. The Congress, Senate and the judges on the Supreme Court, are cowards for not standing up for the citizens, their job now is to help the Socialist Government any way they can. Semper Fi.

    • john

      Sad but true

    • James

      Vic, A minor point but “Congress” includes the Senate.

    • eddie47d

      The failed War on Drugs set this nation up to become an incarceration nation. That gave the police and court system free reign over a persons life. It was the Law and Order crowd who demanded police action against the marijuana users back in the Nixon days which brought down draconian actions against ordinary citizens. We gave the police extra power back then and they aren’t giving it back. Now they can do whatever they want and to whomever they want and with impunity.

  • newspooner

    Government is out of control at all levels.

  • Edmund Jones

    Not to be redundant how ever, timid or luke warm compliance only encourages abuse at every level of authority !

  • Song

    Yeah! Good riddance! Need anyone say anymore?

  • STI

    Its time America ( and the rest of the world, for that matter), took a closer look at the whole crime and punishment process.

    While it is justified that persons charged with breaking criminal law be brought before the courts for due process, the very concept of “innocent till proved guilty”, creates a huge problem for the principles of justice and freedom. While it might be prudent to take a person charged with a serious offence into custody while awaiting a court trial, the very act of taking away a persons freedom while still considered NOT GUILTY, gives rise to the concept the Law is a complete and total ass, and the application of the law is by definition illegal, to a point. If the law demands respect, then the law should give respect.

    If we as society hadn’t idly sat back and allowed the legal beagles of justice and power to bend the law into dimensions, never even conceived of by the crafters of the constitution,
    ( the idea of an amendment should be anti-thematic to the creation or expression of a constitution), or conceived by the first principals of law laid down by the sages of the old testament and/ or
    most societies around the world, whether deemed to be enlightened or savage. ( I don’t know of any savage societies that insist their members be pat -down before they go on a hunt or a walkabout, or a night dancing)

    If the essence of a constitution is to define and preserve the fundamental nature of who we are with respect to each other, and quantify what is deemed to be right and wrong behaviour amongst us, then the fundamental principals should be enough to create that situation, without the need of changing, upgrading, downgrading, replacing rethinking, or amending the basic tenants, once created.
    Attempted murder, is no more serious than attempted jaywalking, or attempted littering, but i can guarantee that if government and jurisprudence is left to its present course it will be a matter of a few years, and just thinking about murdering your neighbour will be a capital crime and you will have to submit to the little “mind reader” implant that will enable such discovery. ( Hope to hell the wires and signals don’t get crossed too many times or we may find the jails filled to the brims with people
    falsely convicted of HATE THOUGHTS……. by the way it is a fundamental thought process to entertain thoughts of absolute HATRED , who is the idiot that came up with and gave light to
    the concept of “HATE CRIME”, he or she should be boiled in oil……)

    Consider murder, so deemed a capital offence, but as soon as the idea is carved into stone, it creates a huge problem with all the deep philosophers, politicians, social psychologists , and war mongers that tread the earth.

    The intent of having defined murder as a crime, was to uphold each and every individuals right to the supreme freedom that this life grants us, the right to live, and not just to to live free, but to live without the fear that someone might come and take it away from us.

    This law as with virtually , every other fundamental law, should be and should be treated as exactly every other law, as what they are meant to be, which is a simple reminder of how it is we should live and how we should treat each other.(quit complicating the law with amendment.. quit changing the law
    to suit the political will of commerce, and the changing tide of social opinion)

    The law sets out that the act of murder is the taking of another human life. There are no degrees( you have either killed someone or not), there should be no qualifications, (you can’t un- justifiably kill someone here, but justifiably kill someone else over there), there should be absolutely no wiggle room in the definition of murder, and not because the more creative people of our society can’t come up with such variations, but because, by not having such variations, no one would loose site of the original intent of this or other laws.

    And lets be really really fair, as the law should have us, if you knew that you would as a payment for murder have to forfeit your life, you would reconsider, not only your intent( such as killing someone to get their home, their business, their spouse, their car) but you would consider your abilities, your attitude, your out look and if the law was really really fair, if you decided to join the army as a so called justified means to commit murder, you would find that when you had returned, as an act of contrition and to satisfy the law, you would jump on your bayonet.

    This brings out the really stupid point of the law of murder as we, in this age live with. That is, the incongruity of the law. The state, can upon the fundamental principles of due process come to the conclusion that you are guilty of and have committed the crime of murder and deserve the punishment of death, but now the state must murder you.
    They can call it anything they want to, but those governments that utilize the death penalty are if fact exacting a crime on those they deem to be criminals, and so should have the
    punishment set upon them. Well not those that pass sentence, but those that commit the act, the executioners. ( In our present state of affairs those that pass sentence SHOULD be killed too,
    because of the little tenets they came up with…. guilty by association , or accessory after or before the fact …. )

    As silly as that sounds it does bring up a very interesting idea. If murder deserves death, who is able to carry out the sentence without incurring a similar sentence? Essentially no one.
    But even in those states that still practice the death sentence, what gives the state the right to carry out the sentence ? Wouldn’t it be more natural that the sentence should be carried out, if not by the mother and or father of the convicted, then by the family of the convicted? And if not the family of the convicted, maybe the family of the victim! Why should we want the state to be responsible for doing the dirty work of the world? Because that’s who we pay taxes to do all our dirty work?

    This brings up the other heinous dimension of the law and that is , that somehow, but always, money is attached to and a part of the due process of law. It is utterly odious and wicked that anything to do with the expression, implementation, the extraction, the development, dissolution or evolution of law is somehow tied to commerce and filthy lucre.
    If time is money, who else is so enabled to profit by delay , than those that tie the finding of truth, to the extraction of dollars by the minute, from those caught up in system out of their control.

    By association war has become the legal extension of the illegal use of murder to justify profit taking by huge industrialists, when in fact war should be a last resort to an invasion
    by a foreign army. AKA the military by law, should only be allowed to defend a soil, never invade, or what’s a military for, and even then once its over they should all jump on their bayonets.

    Maybe not, but how hypocritical of a society that on the one hand demands the safe haven, law provides against murder, but then turns out in droves to celebrate the return of the murderous
    army they have provided funding for, to go to the other side of the world, to shed a strangers blood on their own soil.
    I could go on, but just telling this makes me sick of humanity. The foul stench of hypocrisy fills my mind so that my only wish is that you all %&$(* die, not too quick, at least not before you come to the realization of how wrong headed you have become, as a people, as a nation, abandoned of good sense.

    • eddie47d

      You certainly brought up some interesting scenerios STI. On the issue of family members being the ones to kill the perpetrators is rather bad advice.That took me to certain Muslim countries that allow that and it isn’t pretty. Stonings and gang rapes of innocents. No thanks.Our laws suck to say the least and the State has too much power in distributing sentencing. At least in this country we try and keep out mob justice. Although there are those who want the return of the rope and a tree. On the subject of strip searches it is far more common here than some realize and should be challenged.

    • James

      STI, The U.S. Constitution simply created the three branches of federal government, and delegated certain powers to it. Itwas never intended to define what is good or evil. A couple of years later, the Bill of Rights was added to prevent the national government from using its powers to affect our rights. Good and evil are defined in the Bible.

  • Zermoid

    Never believe the “Innocent until proven Guilty” crap. As one who has been thru the court process and wrongly accused believe me, you walk into that court guilty, and if you cannot PROVE innocence you are gonna be found guilty. Reasonable doubt? It doesn’t exist in a court, there is guilty and innocent. Anywhere in between and you are considered guilty.

    It may not be the way it was meant to work, bit it IS the way our court system works nowadays.


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