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Arrestee Strip-Search: A Fourth Amendment breach?

Publication Date: 
October 13, 2011
USA Today
Joan Biskupic

Lecturer Thomas C. Goldstein was quoted in the following USA Today article by Joan Biskupic that covered the case of Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, where Goldstein represented Albert Florence who believes that his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches was violated when he was strip searched after being accused of a minor offense.

As the Supreme Court considered Wednesday whether people arrested for traffic or other minor offenses can be strip-searched during jail processing, Justice Anthony Kennedy homed in on the competing interests. He referred to the importance of protecting "the individual dignity of the detainee" yet stressed the danger of a county jail, where arrestees are screened and then placed in cells with other prisoners.

"You don't know who these people are," said Kennedy, often a swing vote in difficult cases. "You arrest them for traffic and they may be some serial killer. You don't know."


Representing Florence in his appeal, lawyer Thomas Goldstein argued that jails should be able to strip arrestees only if authorities have reason to suspect they may be concealing something. Goldstein said jailers lacking sufficient grounds should not be able to get up close to a person and look at their private parts.

What Florence experienced, Goldstein said, was "a significant intrusion on individual privacy and individual dignity."