SCOTUS: Strip Searches Even for Minor Offenses. When Does Security Trump Privacy?

Albert W. Florence was riding in the passenger seat of his car when his wife was pulled over for speeding. When the investigating officer searched his records he found Mr. Florence had a warrant out for his arrest for an unpaid fine. It turns out Mr. Florence had, in fact, paid the fine, but that did not keep him out of jail for a week. 


Incarcerated in two different counties, Mr. Florence was also subjected to two strip-searches, which he said were so humiliating it "made me feel less than a man."

Fortunately, Mr. Florence had legal remedies. After all, doesn't the Fourth Amendment protect him from unreasonable searches, especially given the fact that his offense was so minor? Not so, said the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling

The court's reasoning? 13 million Americans are put into jail each year. The high court is in no position to second-guess the judgment of corrections officials who have the responsibility to keep these crowded, unsanitary and dangerous places safe. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority:

“There is a substantial interest in preventing any new inmate, either of his own will or as a result of coercion, from putting all who live or work at these institutions at even greater risk when he is admitted to the general population.”

So that means you can be strip-searched even if you have committed a minor offense. 

What do you think of the court's ruling? Is it more important to maintain security, or, as the dissenting judges argued, is it more important to maintain "human dignity"? Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less