The United States Supreme Court may decide to hear an important case out of New Jersey in the coming months—one related to when strip searches are appropriate in the jailing of individuals. Currently, those arrested and held in jails across the country are strip searched, sometimes even when they are jailed on an unindictable offense (like a traffic ticket or unpaid fine).
The case that may be heard in DC concerns a man who was arrested for an unpaid ticket while riding in his BMW with his wife at the wheel and his son in the back seat. Nevermind he kept a receipt stating the fine was actually paid, he was still arrested by the NJ State Police.
Albert W. Florence would spend 8 days in jail, between two county facilities, before he would eventually be released. His detainment is outrage enough, but the case at hand is about his treatment when jailed, not the fact that he was jailed at all.
Mr. Florence was strip searched. A large and self-described “man’s man”, Florence states “It was humiliating. It made me feel less than a man.”
Federal courts of appeal have gone both ways in similar cases. In one, a judge ruled that citizens brought into the jail are, in essence, coming in from “one big and prolonged contact visit”, a situation that would garner a strip search if the jailed was already in custody.
In Mr. Florence’s case, the appeals court judge used some backwards reasoning, stating “It is plausible that incarcerated persons will induce or recruit others to subject themselves to arrest on nonindictable offenses to smuggle weapon s or other contraband into the facility,” laughable reasoning indeed.
An indictable offense is a fancy way of saying a serious crime. An unpaid speeding ticket is not a crime. Mr. Florence had no reason to suspect he would be arrested and taken to jail (especially since the fine was actually paid). The suggestion that he would be driving around Jersey with his family and “contraband” disguised inside of his body is asinine.
But, although the strip searching of this man seems unwarranted, keeping jails safe is a primary concern. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules on this case if they decide to hear it, which they are expected to do.
Being arrested is a humiliating experience. Whether you are arrested for a serious crime or are put into an unjust situation like the defendant in this case, you can walk away a changed person. Having an advocate on your side in the New Jersey criminal courts can make a difference, ensuring your rights are protected and your interests are represented.
If you are facing charges, contact our offices today for a free consultation.