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Court Allows Strip Searches for Minor Offenses

When someone is suspected of committing a crime, police may take a variety of approaches to investigate the situation. If someone is accused of a drug crime, police may need to pat down the individual to find the drugs, but usually, police need to have a reason to perform this test.

However, a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court may mean drastic changes for people who have been accused of crimes. It all started when police officers in New Jersey spotted Albert Florence and his wife driving to a restaurant. Police ran the vehicle's license plate, and discovered that Florence had a warrant out for an unpaid traffic fine.

Officers performed a traffic stop and arrested Florence for the outstanding warrant. They took him to jail, where he was subjected to two invasive searches for weapons or contraband. This was part of the procedure for everyone who was booked into that particular jail, no matter what crime was being charged.

Florence had actually paid this ticket prior to the traffic stop, but his warrant was not recalled from the system. He spent six days in jail waiting for the situation to be resolved, and was freed after a judge stated that Florence had paid the fine. He then sued the jail for violating his Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizures. The Court ruled that since the procedure applied to everyone coming into the jail, whether they were violent offenders or not, that the searches were permitted.

This case may change the way that police and law enforcement process individuals who are spending time in jail. It may allow for more opportunities to gather evidence against someone suspected of committing a crime.

Source: Huffington Post "Supreme Court Says Jails Can Strip Search You - Even for Traffic Violations" Inimai Chettiar, April 6, 2012.

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