Invasive Strip Searches — Even for Minor Offenses — Are Legal, According to the Supreme Court
In a decision earlier this week ruled by the Supreme Court — in which four dissenters were outvoted by five proponents — invasive strip searches are permitted by federal, state and local governments in the United States on anyone who is arrested, even if that arrest is a minor offense.
What does this decision mean for you, and what does it have to do with FlyerTalk? It could mean a humiliating experience for you should you be arrested — even mistakenly — by law enforcement for any violation. For example, if you rent a car while traveling and you are pulled over by the police for failure to pay a fine — an incident which reportedly occurred in New Jersey and prompted the lawsuit which led to the ruling by the Supreme Court — you could be taken to the local jail and strip searched. In the New Jersey case, the suspect was allegedly strip searched twice — yet, the suspect had already paid the fine in question before the incident occurred.
Could this decision affect the operation of the Transportation Security Administration on how its agents perform screening at airport security checkpoints? Could you endure a strip search instead of a “pat-down” — already considered invasive by many people — if you refuse to go through a scanner equipped with advanced imaging technology, resulting in Transportation Security Administration agents viewing your naked body for explosives? What if you are accidentally caught with contraband, such as a bottle partially filled with water — would that be suspicious enough to warrant a strip search?
The good news is that states will still be allowed to forbid strip searches within their jurisdictions. However, that is of little comfort to the average citizen. Without looking it up, do you know which states deem strip searches without suspicion to be illegal?
The Supreme Court — the most powerful court in the United States — ruled in favor of invasive strip searches to help prevent the spread of diseases and contraband within jail and prison facilities, which could place the lives of jail and prison workers and inmates at risk.
Look, I am not a lawyer — nor do I have any desire to become one — but this decision is simply wrong, in my opinion. It places the freedom, liberty and privacy of citizens of the United States at risk. Equally as bad is the notion that an innocent person from another country visiting the United States could endure a humiliating strip search at the whim of a rogue law enforcement officer.
The United States Constitution may not explicitly state that invasive strip searches are unconstitutional, but I cannot imagine that the founding fathers of the United States would have nodded their heads in agreement at the thought of having an invasive strip search performed upon them for a minor offense if they were arrested. People in the colonies that would eventually become the United States were fighting, revolting and protesting against what they considered perceived injustices against their rights and freedoms. Imagine the British rulers informing the angry colonists that they will decrease or eliminate the tax on their tea but they will be arrested and subject to invasive strip searches simply because they had the audacity to protest. That would have “gone over real well”, would it not?
As a law-abiding citizen, the chances of you getting strip-searched — despite the ruling of the Supreme Court — are currently negligible at best. In my opinion, that is not good enough. Could that change in the future? Mistakes do happen. Circumstances — such as protesting an injustice — can put an otherwise law-abiding citizen in jeopardy of being arrested, even if the intentions of that citizen are justifiable.
What do you think? Should the safety of jail and prison workers and inmates be placed at a higher priority over the freedom, rights and privacy of citizens and visitors of the United States? What are the chances — if any — that this ruling by the Supreme Court will affect the screening procedures of Transportation Security Administration personnel at airport security checkpoints?
Is the ruling of the possibility of allowing strip searches on anyone who is arrested — even if for a minor offense — a potential threat to the way of life and society in general in the United States, or is this much ado about nothing?