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Do prison strip searches for minor offenses violate the 4th Amendment?


April 5, 2012

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

When Albert Florence’s wife was pulled over for speeding in 2005, little did he know that the incident would lead to events that would spiral into a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Florence was sitting in the passenger seat during the traffic stop in New Jersey. When the police officer noticed a warrant for Florence for not paying a fine, he was detained. The outstanding warrant was an error, and Florence presented the officer with the receipt for the fine. Even though he had evidence of paying the fine, Florence was still taken into custody, forced to endure two strip searches and spend seven days in custody.

Florence said the strip searches “petrified” and “humiliated” him. After his arrest, he was forced to take a delousing shower and an officer conducted the first strip search.

Florence decided to sue the prison, arguing that his civil rights were violated. Contending that he presented no threat to the prison or its staff, Florence said his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure was violated.

His case was taken up by the Supreme Court, which heard the arguments about whether jails have the right to conduct strip searches of suspects charged with minor offenses.

The court ruled against Florence, deciding that such strip searches do not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, stated that jails are “often crowded, unsanitary, and dangerous places” and that the court deferred the judgment of whether to conduct a strip search to corrections officials.

George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr said in an NPR interview that the decision is a go-ahead for prison officials. “The justices in the majority don’t want to micromanage jails,” Kerr said. “So they’re saying if the people running the jails think they need to do this, they should be able to do this.”

Writing a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen J. Breyer argued that prison officials should have to cite a reason before conducting a strip search of people brought in for minor offenses. Breyer said that less-invasive searches, such as metal detectors or an inspection with suspects in their underwear, would not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights.

What do you think?

Should strip searches be allowed for people accused of minor offenses? Do strip searches violate their Fourth Amendment rights? Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling? Who should be responsible for determining if a person incarcerated should be strip-searched? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
5/16/2018
NY
Ally
South
Strip searches should not be allowed for people accused of minor offences. Strip searches do violate the 4th Amendment rights. I disagree with the Supreme Courts ruling. The crime should be responsible for determining if a person gets stripped searched.

5/16/2018
New York
Sally Ninan
Clarkstown South
It would violate the fourth amendment because it would be unnecessary in some cases. In my opinion, they would need a warrant. In some cases, there is no probable cause. No logical reason for a strip search, unless stated by the arresting officer.

5/16/2018
new york
Julia D
clarkstown south high school
If you are pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer smells weed coming from your car the officer has a right to strip search you with probable cause but if you get pulled over and you're doing nothing wrong other than what you got pulled over for and the officer has no probable cause to assume that you are doing anything else illegal then I believe that it violates your 4th amendment rights.

5/16/2018
west nyack
caity
south
no they shouldnt be allowed to strip search you for a minor offenses. yes it violates your 4th amendment rights.

5/16/2018
New York
Jony
Clarkstown South
I don't believe strip searches should be allowed for only minor offenses if there really any probable cause. Someone that their tail lights not working and are stopped by the police, shouldn't end up being taken into custody and strip searched. I feel searches towards such minor offenses are unreasonable and therefore should violate the 4th Amendment.

5/16/2018
west nyack
Amanda Pulitano
south
Strip searches should not be allowed for people who are accused of minor offenses. Yes, it is a violation of their fourth amendment rights.

5/16/2018
West Nyack/ NY
Julia
Clarkstown High School South
I do not think that strip searches should be allowed for people accused of minor crimes, but I do believe that if they have a reason to search a person they should be allowed to strip search them. Strip searches do not violate the fourth amendment because if they have reasonable suspicion they are trying to keep the people safe and taking precaution because if they did not and the person wound up doing something the police officer would be responsible for not searching. I do agree with the Supreme Court ruling because a person may know someone in jail and are bringing weapons into them to cause danger. The corrections officer should be able to determine who they strip search depending on their case.

5/16/2018
West Nyack, New York
Ryan
Clarkstown High School South
Strip searches should be allowed for people accuse of minor offenses if law enforcement officials deem it necessary. While they may be accused of a minor crime, they may be guilty of a more serious one such as possession of illegal drugs or carrying a concealed weapon.

5/16/2018
West Nyack
John M
Clarkstown South
I think they should be allowed. I agree with their ruling because they strip search people to keep others safe, not to humiliate them. I think if the officers have any suspicion then they should be able to strip search them.

5/16/2018
west nyack
mai
clarkstown south
strip searches for minor offenses definitely violate 4th amendment rights. it makes no sense for someone stopped for a traffic violation to be strip searched, especially if there is no evidence given. even if police find something on the citizen it is humiliating, as Florence said, and unlawful.

5/16/2018
West Nyack Ny
Nick
Clarkstown South
I think they should be able to strip search because jail and prison are very dangerous. A lot of criminals are in jail and needs to keep everyone safe.

5/16/2018
West Nyack/ New York
Miguel
Barsamian/ Clarkstown South
I believe strip searches should be allowed because the officers need to protect themselves, I don't believe it violates the 4th amendment right. I agree with the searches.

5/16/2018
Nanuet/ NY
Jelani
Mr. Barcamian
No it is not a violation because they need to keep the prison safe and you never know what someone has on them. But this was unfair because he had evidence of paying the fine but was still taken into custody.

3/16/2016
Stroudsburg/ Pa
Asia H.
Mr. Hanna
Yes it does violate the fouth amendment being thay it states " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things ..." If you do not have a warrant you cannot perform a strip search. What if a police officer violates the ability to perform a strip search and possibly sexually assaults the citizens that he/she is supposed to be protecting. Its bad enough that this can happen anyway but why give officers an excuse to use if they get caught. There was not a logical reason or matter at hand to perform the search. The victim said he felt humiliated and was petrified, this is him stating how he feels violated. He did not feel secure. Which is everything that the amendment stands against.

3/15/2016
Stroudsburg, PA
Tracey
Mr.Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I think that if he had been searched once and was clear there was no reason to research him. The only reason to strip search him in the first place would have to be base upon suspicion and the man should also have the right to refuse another strip search after the first one.

1/3/2013
Montgomery, TX
Paola
Metzgar/MHS
Strip searched should be allowed for people accused of any offense. Wether it be a minor or major one, it is possible that someone could be having a bad day and plant to pull out a gun theyn hid in their drawers. It is a matter of safe security for all public officers. It does not violate the Fourth Amendement becauses the occused person is somehow breaking the law giving the right for an officer to pull over. The Supreme Court's ruling was fair and the strip search should be given to all prisoners held in jail and people held in detention centers too.

12/10/2012
CA
Yovana
MHS
Strip searches should not be allowed for people accused of minor offenses. It violates the Fourth amendment in that it is an unlawful search. Strip searches should only be for convicted felons in prison. I do not agree with the court`s ruling in this case. I think someone other than the jail officials should be responsible for determining if a person incarcerated should be strip searched because they are biased.

11/30/2012
Porterville, CA
Weston
Smith/MHS
Strip searches should be allowed for people accuse of minor offenses if law enforcement officials deem it necessary. While they may be accused of a minor crime, they may be guilty of a more serious one such as possession of illegal drugs or carrying a concealed weapon. I bet you didn't hear about the man who carried a 9 mm and two clips for days in his rolls of fat for three days while he was in prison. He only surrendered the weapon when forced to take a shower. (He was arrested on DUI). Anyway, strip searches don't violate the Fourth Amendment by any stretch of the imagination because police had probable cause to believe he was a criminal (he was one).

11/19/2012
Belleville, NY
Samantha
Colby/Belleville Henderson
Albert Florence's rights were clearly violated. In another cases perhaps strip searches for minor offenses are necessary. After all, a criminal offense is a criminal offense, but this man had clear proof that he had paid his fine, but instead of looking for a clerical error the police officer decided to put him in jail and strip search an obviously innocent man? And then as if Albert Florence hadn't suffered enough he loses his case? The Supreme Court is the almighty judicial power in America but they ruled in favor of the prison against an obvious violation of constitutional rights. Prisons must be kept in check and reminded that they are not above the law. Convicts may not have the same rights as a free citizen, but they still have rights as human beings.

10/24/2012
Watertown
Jessica
John Rimas/Watertown High
I think strip searches in general do violate the 4th amendment but not in this case because they have a right to do so. Strip searches should not be done unless there is a reason to believe the person id dangerous. In this case, i do not believe this person should have been strip searched for not paying a fine.

9/28/2012
Belleville/ NY
Jordan
Miss. Colby/ Belleville Henderson
Strip searches are simply the officers doing their jobs. They were simpley protecting themselves and anyone else around them from anything dangerous the person could have with or on them. They don't want any harm to anyone they just need to be safe

5/14/2012
Montgomery
Hunter C.
Montgomery Highschool
strip searches i dont think violate a persons fourth amendment. The only reason a strip search i believe tho should be aloud to be conducted is only if the person has had some previous posesion charges or the arresting officer has some reason to believe that the person has something on him. Another thing that i believe is only may a strip search be done on someone if the person is above the age of 18. I dont believe the minor should have to under go a strip search.

5/10/2012
Porterville, CA
Andres
Mr.Smith/Monache
Strip searches should not be allowed for people who were accused of minor offenses since they don’t really poses any real threat. If strip searches are made with no real reason then I believe it does violate the fourth amendment when the person was taken in for a minor offense. I disagree on the Supreme Court’s ruling. I think that police officers can decide themselves if they can so strip-searches on individuals but only if they committed a certain crimes.

5/10/2012
porterville,ca
salinna
smith/monache
I beleive that the strip searches should be for everyone that are in the proccess of going to prison. Though they have no right to give more then one. Yes i know that they have to take procaution but they should have the first time. It does violate the 4th ammendment when it comes to his situation. Though the ruling of the supreme court was a good decision. THus only 1 strip search per person.

5/6/2012
Porterville CA
Anthony
Smith/Monache High SChool
I believe its ok to strip search someone in the case because that is part of the official’s jobs. They are protecting not only themselves but the safety of others they will come in contact with. If they are strip searchi9ng someone it is because they have to and believe they should for the safety of themselves and others.

4/26/2012
Porterville/CA
Mario
Smith/Monache
I believe strip searches are not violating any amendment. In the situation presented here, the officers were just doing there job and were taking precautions in case the person were to carry something intending to harm. Authorities just care for potential dangers while handling accused and do not want harm to be caused.

4/19/2012
Irving/TX
Shynecia
Bradley/Nimitz
Strip searches should not be allowed for people accused of minor offenses. They are just wasting their time strip searching irrelevant people. The Justice Department needs to worry about more serious cases than traffic violations. I 100% disagree with the Supreme Court's ruling. If the person did nothing wrong or too harmful, it is unethical to give him/her a strip search. A judge should be the one who is responsible for determining if a person incarcerated should be strip searched.

4/18/2012
Warren Illinios
shayna ball (:
Mrs.Hoff WHS.
I think it is very wrong to do prison strip searches for minor offenses, its humiliating, &embarrasing. yeah i can understand if its for some major stuff, but like for minor offenses? thats rediciouls.

4/18/2012
Warren Illinios
shayna ball (:
Mrs.Hoff WHS.
I think it is very wrong to do prison strip searches for minor offenses, its humiliating, &embarrasing. yeah i can understand if its for some major stuff, but like for minor offenses? thats rediciouls. id be pissed

4/17/2012
Benson AZ
Jess
Sorenson/Benson
I feel that they didnt need to strip search anyone that has a minor offense. They didnt do anything to bad so why would they do that to them. I say would affect the fourth ammendment of the people.

4/17/2012
AZ
Rayleahna
Sorenson
Minor offenses are things like fines for littering or traffic violations. If you are suspicious after a cop pulls you over they may search the vehicle and have you remove items from your pocket. They can even pat you down. But it is in violation to strip search you when the starting authority reasoning was for a traffic ticket. If the police are going to ask to remove you from the vehicle and search it and search you they should have to state their reasoning for these actions.

4/16/2012
Irving/Texas
Melissa
Bradley/Nimitz
If the person only had a minor offense, I don't think there is a reason for he/she to be stripped searched. Minor offenses are just that, minor. If the offense does not even require for the person to spend time in jail, a strip search should not even be an option. In the case of Mr.Florence, I do believe that the Fourth Amendment was violated. There really was not a reason for him to be stripped searched. If he had been convicted of something worse, I can see why that would be a possibility, but he only had a minor. Personally, I do not agree. I feel that he was treated poorly when it came down to the search. I really don't know who should be held responsible in deciding whether a person should get stripped searched or not. The thing that would matter is what it is that they are being accused of. If it's something like that of Mr.Florence, they should not be strip searched, but if it was something more serious then they should.

4/16/2012
Benson/AZ
Victoria
Mr. Sorenson/BHS
I dont feel that strip searches should be allowed for minor offenses, its wrong and disgusting especially seeing how Florence had a traffic violation. Its obvious that cops always feel power hungry and just because its their job they can be jerks about what they're doing. i think it did violate the fourth amendment because it says "against unreasonable searches" which that was, clearly. No i dont agree with the supreme courts ruling because they didnt look into it enough, i feel the ruling was wrong. If they have had previous arrest for drugs and multiple violations then i feel its appropriate to do a strip search but maybe not even then because where is the person getting stripped going to put it? up their butt? come on..

4/16/2012
Irving/TX
Yasmin
Bradley/Nimitz
Minor offenses are usually just fines that don't require any jail time, which to me it doesn't show that they are terrible criminals.And with that in mind, I believe that strip searches should not be conducted if it a minor offense and especially if they have proof of them being innocent. But strip searches should be conducted in special situations, such as major felonies and people that are serving jail time. And in this case Florence was clearly innocent since he had proof, and I think the officials did violate his Fourth Amendment right.

4/16/2012
Benson AZ
Jonathan M
Mr. Sorensen benson high
Well i think that the police violated this mans fourth amendment right in the sense of, they really pulled him over for a trafic violation, but yet took him in and searched him, and imprisoned him for seven days. This shows that they went from a trafic violation to a search. So they basically broke the fourth amendment, cause their real reason of stopping Florence was for a trafic violation, but then changed it into a search warrent.

4/13/2012
Irving, Texas
Fatima S
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that strip searches should be allowed, but if there is proof to show that there is no need for one then it should be stopped. It's all about being fair. Strip searches are only fair if you are rightly accused. What happened to Florence was inexcusable, and I believe it did violate his Fourth Amendment rights. Florence had proof that he had paid the fine, and it was ignorant to take him in to custody and thoroughly search him for a crime that he hadn't committed. If the person struggles or is violent towards the officers then it is perfectly reasonable to search them, but nothing of that factor occurred when Florence was searched. Florence seems to have been cooperating, and he was treated awfully for being respectful and honest. By thoroughly searching him, Florence was appalled at what officers could get away with because he had clearly not done anything wrong.

4/13/2012
Benson AZ
Austin
Mr. Sorenson Benson
I do not believe that there was any reason to strip search her or put her in jail. She had done what she said the cops and the jail should have looked it up first tpo find it was there fault.

4/13/2012
Benson Arizona
Kendra
Mr.Sorenson Benson High School
I do not think strip searches are neccessary at all. It is not a major offense. Yes strip searches violate their 4th amendment rights. I do not agree with the Supreme Courts ruling. And police should be responsible for determining if a person incarcerated should be strip searched but only if they have a good enough reason.

4/13/2012
Benson. AZ
Jeremy
Sorensen/ Benon high School
Strip searches for such minor offenses such as not paying a fine is way out of line. If a person was caught with drugs in the car then that could be understandable. But for such a small offense as that is ridiculous. It would be like strip searching someone for taking a bag of peanuts from a convenience store. No necessary reason to be strip searched.

4/13/2012
Benson, Az
Shaylene
Sorenson/ Benson High School
I agree with Justice Stephen J. Breyer. I think the prison officers should state their reasoning for doing the search. If and only if the reason is reasonable and applicable to the current situation should the search be carried out.

4/13/2012
Benson, AZ
Richard Chester
Mr. Sorenson
I don not think that strip searches shopuold happen to people who have made a minor offense. the 4th amendment was violated because they did search him for no reason, i think a search should would have to take place if the offender had illegal drugs. or for firearms when they dont have a licence. i think there was no reason for them to search him.

4/13/2012
Benson Arizona
Alexandria
Mr. Sorensen/ Benson High School
I don't believe strip searches should be allowed for minor offeses. The supreme court was wrong for ruling against the individual. The fourth amendment states that there is no need for unreasonable search. Both the officer and the supreme court were wrong for allowing this. . . Amen. (:

4/13/2012
benson
ashlee
sorenson
No, if it is something little, then leave them alone. if they don't have a logical reason then i dont see any point in wasting time.

4/13/2012
benson az
dakota w
benson
i think that they had no reson to search him because he did nothing to make them think he had something on him.

4/13/2012
Benson/AZ
Danie
Sorenson/Benson
I think that if he had been searched once and was clear there was no reason to re-search him. The only reason to strip search in the first place would have to be based upon suspision and the man should also have the right to refuse anoth strip s1earch after the first one.

4/13/2012
benson Az
dustin
sorenson
i think that if the peolpe that did one alittle crime shouldnt be searched but other than that they really didnt do any thing wrong if they were convicted for one stupid crime then they dont need to be searched

4/13/2012
Benson, Az
Shaylene
Sorenson/ Benson High School
I agree with Justice Stephen J. Breyer. I think the prison officers should state their reasoning for doing the search. If and only if the reason is reasonable and applicable to the current situation should the search be carried out.

4/13/2012
AZ
Darrel
sorenson
I personaly think that they had no good case because they had no reason to search him more then one time and i think that it did violat his rights cause they did have to.

4/13/2012
Benson/Arizona
Paxton
Mr.sorenson/BHS
no, thats crap. if someone thinks they can do something, they willl do it and our system is flawed. now that this man was searched when he told them about the PAID fine, that is against the law.

4/13/2012
Benson
Chace
Mr. Sorensen
If he was taken into prison I think the strip search is entirely necissary. if they are going into a prison, even if he has no intention of using a weapon, some other inmate could. I do however feel that the week of time for the false outstanding fine warrant is a little ridiculous and he should be compensated appropriately for that.

4/12/2012
Irving/TX
Carolina
Bradley/Nimitz
Strip Searches should not be allowed for people with minor offenses. The individual had nothing to hide its not like he had a drug warrant or had illegal possessions of any kind. It was both a waste of time for both Albert and the officer especially if Mrs. Florence had proof of the payed ticket. The supreme court was wrong for ruling against the individual. The fourth amendment states that there is no need for unreasonable search. Both the officer and the supreme court were wrong for allowing this.

4/12/2012
Irving,TX
Richard
Bradley/Nimitz
Strip searches for minor offenses shouldn't be done at all. Maybe a pat down, but a strip search is to far. Albert Florence's Fourth Amendment rights were violated by officers that should have never been given a badge. Not only was the warrant a mistake, but Florence showed the receipt for the fine to the officers. That receipt was evidence. There was not a single thing involved in this situation that should have lead to the two strip searches Albert Florence had to endure. The officers were probably bored and decided to have some fun by humiliating Albert. The Supreme Court made the wrong decision. There minds had to be some where else when they made their decision. In most cases, maybe strip searches don't violate a person's Fourth Amendment rights, but in this case involving Albert Florence, the strip searches certainly did violate his Fourth Amendment right. They were uncalled for. As mentioned before, not only was the warrant a mistake, but there was evidence to prove that the fine had already been paid. What other evidence does the Supreme Court need to see in order for them to realize that a innocent man had his rights violated and abused?

4/12/2012
Benson
Cassie
Mr. Sorenson
I don't think that strip searches for people accused of minor offenses should be allowed. There is no probable cause to search the person if they have committed a minor offense. Florence didn't pay a fine, so he is automatically treated as if he just committed a murder? That is not fair and I don't agree with the Supreme Court's ruling. The people running the jails have no right to do that, because even though they are enforcing the law and such they have received no warrants, probable cause, or permission from those higher up to perform such searches.

4/12/2012
Irving, Tx
Adam
Bradley/ Nimitz
Strip searches should only take place if the person that is in custody presents some sort of viable danger to themselves or the people around them. The reason for the strip search should be logged and taken account of so that if any questions were to arise from it a later time, the prison would have a record of why the search was preformed. Strip searches do not always violate the Fourth Amendment but in cases like this I think they do. A trained officer of the law should be able to make the decision on weather the search is needed or not.

4/12/2012
Irving/ Tx
Itzel
Bradley/Nimitz
I strongly believe that strip searches should not only be allowed but also applied in any kind of severe violation. If these people are taking matter to even be incarcerated then they should be strip searched. Crimes that big are serious with crazy yet keen people. You never really know to what extremes they can go or what they can be up to. They might violate the fourth amendment to certain extent but not for it to be that much of a serious issue. Besides the strip searches are applied to create a more broader safe environment for everyone and to reassure that nothing risky can possibly go on.

4/11/2012
Irving, TX
Areli M.
Bradley/ Nimitz
Strip searches conducted for people accused of minor offenses is ridiculous. If someone gets a fine and they pay it off, they still have to spend 7 days in jail and be harassed by the police? Instead of trying to flag everyone down for paid tickets who's warrants haven't been taken down yet, the officers should be busy tracking down the real criminals who are out on the streets every night. I do not agree with the supreme court's ruling. If the same thing was done to them, I would love to have them say that "it was necessary for them to do so because I ran a red light." The degree of severity for extremely minor offenses should matter when it comes to deciding how to search the individual. My thoughts toward this is if the person was caught with a weapon and/or drugs, THATS when they should be strip searched.

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