U.S. Supreme Court

ABA Urges Supreme Court to Limit Strip Searches for Minor Offenses

The American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a wrongly arrested New Jersey man who was strip searched after a traffic stop.

The ABA brief (PDF) filed on behalf of Albert Florence supports limits on strip searches. People arrested for minor offenses that don’t involve violence or drugs should not be strip searched, the brief says, unless there is “individualized, reasonable suspicion of possession of contraband.” The brief cites ABA Criminal Justice Standard 23-7.9(d).

Florence was arrested in a March 2005 traffic stop after police stopped his wife for speeding. Florence, a passenger, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine for a traffic offense, even though he had a document with him showing it had been paid. According to Florence’s cert petition, the issue is whether the Fourth Amendment permits a jail to conduct a suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense.

The ABA writes in its brief: “A strip search of detainees like Mr. Florence upon admission to a prison, without some other individualized reasonable suspicion, is not justified by security concerns, and is therefore inconsistent with the respect for the human dignity of prisoners to which the ABA is deeply committed.”

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