Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys expect a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving jail strip searches in July. The court has already heard oral arguments from lawyers for both sides.
The case involves strip searches of people arrested or detained in county jails, and relates to a New Jersey man who was arrested in March 2005. The man, Albert Florence, was traveling in a car with his wife when she was pulled over by a state trooper for speeding. When the state trooper ran a check on Florence, he found a pending warrant for an unpaid fine. In spite of Florence's best efforts to convince the trooper that the matter had been settled, he was arrested, and taken to county jail. Florence was subjected to strip searches, a common procedure in many county jails.
Florence was released after it was determined that he had indeed paid the fine. Florence filed a lawsuit and is now asking the Supreme Court to consider whether a county jail can subject a defendant to a strip search without first determining if there is any reasonable suspicion that the person is indeed hiding something. Both the Burlington and Essex County jails where the strip searches took place in this case, have insisted that such strip searches are important because of the chance that drugs or weapons might be smuggled into jail.
Florence's lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to formulate a rule that will affirm that people arrested for minor offenses, like misdemeanors, can be subject to a strip search only if there is a reasonable suspicion that they're concealing any kind of contraband objects, like drugs or weapons.