If you are stopped for speeding or arrested for an unpaid fine, you may be subjected to a strip search and thorough inspection of even the most private body parts, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday in another controversial 5-4 decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy (photo) sided with the court's conservative bloc and wrote the opinion of the court in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, the case of Albert Florence, a New Jersey man apprehended in a motor vehicle stop and arrested for an allegedly unpaid fine. In fact, Florence had already paid the fine, but the bench warrant for his arrest had, "for some unexplained reason," not been removed from the statewide computer database at the time of the arrest, Kennedy said.
The case was not about the arrest, however, but concerned Florence's treatment at two different detention facilities, where he was subjected to strip searches and inspection of his genitals and body cavities. Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas, judged the searches to be reasonable for security reasons. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
Kennedy said someone stopped for even a minor, non-violent offense might turn out to be a dangerous criminal, citing the example of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was caught when stopped by a state trooper for driving without a license plate. One of the terrorists in the September 11, 2001 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before taking part in the hijacking of Flight 93, Kennedy noted. "Experience shows that people arrested for minor offenses have tried to smuggle prohibited items into jail, sometimes by using their rectal cavities or genitals for the concealment," Kennedy added.
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