WASHINGTON – Albert Florence was strip-searched twice in seven days in two New Jersey jails after he was arrested on a warrant for a traffic fine he had already paid.
Florence said he should never have been ordered to undress for the searches, much less been arrested. He sued over his treatment, but a divided panel of federal appeals court judges in Philadelphia said that it is reasonable to search everyone being jailed, even without suspicion that a person may be concealing a weapon or drugs.
Most other federal courts have ruled otherwise, and now Florence is asking the Supreme Court to take his case. The high court will decide in the next few weeks whether to hear his appeal.
The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment does not prohibit all searches, just those determined to be unreasonable. Florence argues that even if his arrest were valid — everyone agrees it was not — the jailhouse searches were unreasonable because he was being held for failure to pay a fine, which is not a crime in New Jersey.