It might seem that in the United States, being pulled over for driving without a seat belt should not end with the government ordering you to take off your clothes and “lift your genitals.” But there is no guarantee that this is the case — not since the Supreme Court ruled this week that the Constitution does not prohibit the government from strip-searching people charged with even minor offenses. The court’s 5-4 ruling turns a deeply humiliating procedure — one most Americans would very much like to avoid — into a routine law-enforcement tactic.
This case arose when a man named Albert Florence was pulled over by New Jersey state troopers while he was driving to his parents’ house with his wife and young son. The trooper arrested him for failing to pay a fine — even though, it turned out, he actually had paid it. Florence was thrown into the Essex County Correctional Facility, which has a strip-search policy for all new arrestees.
Florence, who had not even violated the law, was subjected to one of the more degrading interactions a citizen can have with his government. He was made to disrobe, lift his genitals for the guards to show that he was not hiding anything and cough in a squatting position. Florence said he was strip-searched twice.
After he was released, Florence sued, arguing that strip searches of people arrested for minor offenses violate the Fourth Amendment.
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