A New Jersey court has overturned a decision made by a federal judge in Camden ruling that strip searches of defendants accused of misdemeanors, without reasonable suspicion, were unconstitutional.
The third US circuit Court of Appeals upheld blanket strip search policies in Essex and Burlington County jails. In announcing the decision, Judge Thomas Hardiman writing for the majority, wrote that it was necessary to search everyone to keep our jails safe.
The ruling related to a lawsuit filed by Albert Florence, who was arrested in 2005 in Burlington County. Florence hardly had an extensive criminal record. He had an outstanding traffic warrant. He was subjected to a strip search both at the Burlington County Jail and the Essex County Jail. Authorities finally realized that he had paid the fine two years earlier.
Florence sued, and last year, a judge ruled in his favor, writing that it was unconstitutional to subject every defendant to a strip search. Now, that the appeals court has reversed that decision, it could impact strip search policies in several other jails in New Jersey, where similar lawsuits have been put on hold by federal judges till after this ruling.
What the decision means that even persons accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes could be subjected to a humiliating body search for drugs or weapons. Even someone who violates a leash law, has failed to pay traffic tickets, or missed a few child-support payments, could be subjected to a strip search under this decision. Most county jails in New Jersey strip search inmates who have been accused of serious or violent crimes. However, some federal judges prohibit searches of persons accused of lower nonviolent crimes, unless there is reason to believe that they could be hiding guns or other weapons, or contraband.
The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley Kasselman represent persons accused of DUI, sex crimes, drug crimes, assault, fraud and weapons offenses across New Jersey. If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, consult with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney at our firm.