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Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Controversial Strip-Search Procedures

November 16, 2011 | Posted In Recent News - Criminal Law

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments related to the case of a New Jersey man subjected to a strip search in two jails after being arrested.

The incident in question occurred on March 3, 2005.  Albert Florence of Bordentown was a passenger who was traveling with his wife.  She was driving at 82 miles mph in a 55 mph zone when she was pulled over by a state trooper in Burlington County.  The officer ran a check at this time and found that Florence had a pending warrant for his arrest. 

Florence denied that there were any outstanding legal warrants against him  and showed the officer the documentation to prove it.  The trooper, however, wasn't impressed, and Florence was arrested.  He was taken first to a Burlington County Jail and then to an Essex County Jail where he was subjected to strip searches.  He was detained for a week before it was determined that the warrant was for an unpaid fine that had actually been settled.

While Florence may have been wrongfully arrested, a charge of wrongful arrest is not relevant to the October arguments that the Supreme Court heard. Instead, the case brings to light the fact that that thousands of Americans are routinely subjected to humiliating body cavity searches in county jails, without first determining whether there is a need for such a search.  His lawyers say New Jersey has some of the toughest body cavity search criteria in the country, and want the Court to deliver a ruling that exempts persons arrested for minor offenses, like misdemeanors, from body cavity searches.

County jails defend cavity searches on the grounds that smuggling of contraband into jails is a common practice.  However, Justice Sonia Sotomayor told lawyers for the Burlington and Essex counties that there is limited evidence showing that these incidents, although they do occur, are as widespread as claimed.  The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by July.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons who have been charged with DUI, sex crimes, drug crimes, fraud, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.


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