Strip-search ruling kills right to privacy

By Alexandra Pittman

Guest Columnist

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On Monday the Supreme Court decided that a person may be strip-searched for any offense, even without probable cause, after an arrest is made.

The decision was made primarily after a case involving the arrest of Albert W. Florence of New Jersey in 2005, according to an article in The New York Times. Florence was strip-searched twice after wrongly accused for an outstanding fine for a traffic citation. Florence recalled being told to “turn around … squat and cough … spread your cheeks” in an interview last year, an experience he felt was both degrading and humiliating, according to the Times.

Those in support of the ruling argue that mandatory strip searches will help to keep weapons, illegal substances and diseases out of jails, making it safer for the guards and officers who run them, according to an editorial in Time magazine. Supporters also noted a case study focusing on an Orange County, N.Y., correctional institution; of the 23,000 people involved, “there was at most one instance of contraband detected that would not otherwise have been found,” according to an article in the Times.

Though this decision can potentially protect officers by requiring these strip searches, a person’s privacy and respect is ultimately at risk here.

This new ruling clearly pushes the boundaries of government intervention, as can be seen by referencing the Fourth Amendment. The amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched.”

So how is this new ruling even constitutional?

It’s understandable if the ruling was brought with a higher degree of limitations, such as not requiring a strip search without probable cause. If a person is arrested for major crimes or has been linked to crimes in the past, then it could be seen why a strip-search would be necessary. However, I doubt Granny riding her bike through town without an audible bell or the typical college student jaywalking across the street deserves such a search.

There can only be so many what-if scenarios before preventative measures turn into techniques derived from paranoia.

This is yet another case where government involvement infringes on a citizen’s right to privacy. There is no reason to search someone without probable cause, and how the Supreme Court even made this decision is another issue entirely. It must be noted that there is a point where citizens have earned the right to a degree of privacy and respect that this ruling is clearly lacking.

Reporter Andrew Trees described this decision as the “largest judicial assault on human dignity since Buck v. Bell justified eugenics or since Plessy v. Ferguson gave us ‘separate but equal,’” according to his editorial in the Chicago Tribune. If this decision is not questioned, if this ruling is not challenged for the inappropriate measure that it is, defying a citizen’s rights, then Trees may be on to something.

So the next time you’re getting into your car on the way to school, work or a friend’s house, remember this:

You better not forget your license before getting in your car. You just might end up showing the cops a little more than you wanted to.

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