The Strip Search Ruling

The Supreme Court upholds invasive strip searches even for those charged with the most minor crimes—including unpaid traffic fines. We’ll explore.

Photo illustration. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Photo illustration. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Americans have been up in arms about TSA pat-downs at airport security.  Heaven help you if go to jail.

The Supreme Court this week ruled that if you end up taken in for even the most minor of offence – failure to use a turn signal, violating a leash law, riding a bicycle without an audible bell – you can be required, without any reasonable suspicion, to submit to a full strip search.  And that’s no joke.

Strip.  Squat.  Spread.  Cough.  Lift.  Show everything.  Up close.  No recourse.  This is now the dignity guaranteed American citizens.

This hour, On Point: the Supreme Court and strip search.

-Tom Ashbrook


Orin Kerr, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law.

Erik Luna, professor of Law and Law Alumni Faculty Fellow at Washington and Lee University.

Susan Chana Lask, civil rights attorney for petitioner Albert Florence.

From Tom’s Reading List

You can find the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Florence v. County of Burlington, No. 10-945 here.

The New Yorker “What does the Supreme Court know about naked bodies? What is more important, according to a five-four decision Monday, is what the Justices think a law-enforcement officer might learn from strip-searching anyone who has been taken into their custody for any reason at all.”

The Los Angeles Times “By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that people arrested over traffic and other minor offenses can be strip-searched even if there is no reasonable suspicion that they are concealing weapons or contraband. But the court’s decision goes too far. Jailers have a responsibility to make sure that their facilities are secure, but they can do so without the blanket authority the court has given them.”

Slate “The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that officials can strip-search suspects for any arrest, however minor the offense, before admitting them to jail—even if there’s no reasonable suspicion that the individual has contraband. What’s the proper way to conduct a strip-search?”

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