We’re continuing our discussion of a case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this week. The question is whether a jail is allowed under the Fourth Amendment to conduct a strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense without suspicion, no matter what the circumstances. North Carolina is just one state that finds its attorney general and its criminal defense bar on opposite sides of the issue.
In our last post, we were describing the situation that led to the petitioner’s lawsuit. In March 2005, the petitioner had been arrested and taken to a county jail facility. A state trooper had arrested the petitioner, an African American man, on a warrant for an unpaid fine. The fine, in fact, had been paid, but the trooper did not believe the petitioner’s protests.
The first night, the first strip search took place. For the next six days, the petitioner waited for a hearing. It didn’t happen, but officers transferred him to another county jail, where the second strip search took place.
A hearing followed the transfer, and the petitioner was cleared. The court found that the fine had been paid.
The petitioner was alarmed that he was strip searched even when he’d been accused of a non-violent crime — in fact, not even accused of a crime, because failing to pay a fine is not a crime in his state. He wasn’t a violent offender. Jail personnel had no reason to suspect he would be carrying contraband.
In response to the petitioner’s lawsuit, the jails put several arguments forward.
We’ll discuss those in our next post.
Source: National Public Radio, “High Court Looks at Routine Strip Searches in Jail,” Oct. 12, 2011