The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-4 vote to uphold the status quo that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense.
The court ruled that any of the 13 million people admitted each year to the nation's jails are subject to strip-searches, regardless of the alleged offense or suspicion they have contraband such as drugs or weapons.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy delivered the court's opinion saying it is the responsibility of the jail officials to decide who is subject to search.
"Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed," Justice Kennedy wrote.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for all four dissenters, said the strip-searches were "a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy," adding they should only be used with good reason.
People may be strip-searched after arrests for as minor offenses as violating a leash law, driving without a license and failing to pay child support, according to opinions in the lower courts.
The case, Florence v. County of Burlington, No. 10-945, focused on the arrest of Albert W. Florence in New Jersey in 2005. During a traffic stop, Florence was arrested on an outstanding warrant based on an unpaid fine, however the information was wrong and he had paid the fine.
Florence was arrested, taken to jail and strip searched. Florence said he had to stand nude in front of a guard and was asked to move intimate parts of his body.
"It was humiliating. It made me feel less than a man," Florence said.
Among the dissenters were Justices Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Joining Justice Kennedy's majority opinion were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Justice Clarence Thomas joined most of it.
by RTT Staff Writer
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