The Supreme Court has decided, 5-4 of course, that you can be strip searched when arrested for any reason, even the most minor of misdemeanors.* The usual suspects (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy) voted in favor of strip searches.
In his dissent, Justice Breyer wrote that strip searches should be allowed only for serious charges and then only if there is a reasonable suspicion that justifies the search, such as a concern that the person is hiding weapons or drugs. Under the majority’s ruling, neither of these standards would have to be met.
Americans have been strip searched when they were arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, not using their turn signal, and riding a bike without a bell. A nun was strip searched after being arrested at an anti-war demonstration.
In the case at hand, Albert Florence was strip searched twice when he was wrongly arrested for a ticket that he had already paid. So if you think it can’t or won’t happen to you because you’re so law-abiding, think again.
This is a terrible ruling that will have a chilling effect on people exercising their First Amendment rights. I think people are less likely to come out for Trayvon Martin or Occupy Wall Street or any other cause, if they face the indignity and humiliation of a strip search when arrested on even the most minor charge.
This is the sort of stuff that happens to those arrested under tyrannical regimes that don’t tolerate dissent. We saw such tactics during the Arab Spring. Apparently this is our American Spring.
* Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington