The Libertarian Party warns that the 5-4 ruling, supported by conservative justices along with Anthony M. Kennedy, establishes a new judicial precedent allowing invasive searches of individuals in detention for even minor infractions or by mistake.
"After this ruling, get ready to strip even if you have an unpaid traffic ticket," Mark Hinkle, Libertarian Party Chair, said in a statement. "We are dismayed. This ruling sanctions new and unprecedented levels of invasion of privacy. Never before did U.S. courts allow such an outrageous affront to human dignity with so little justification."
The complaint was brought by Albert W. Florence, a black New Jersey man who was arrested by state troopers in 2005 on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine. The police record indicating the fine was unpaid turned out later to be erroneous. Moreover, an unpaid fine is not a crime under New Jersey law.
However, Mr. Florence was held for a week in two different jails before the charges were dropped. He was subjected to strip searches in both institutions.
Justice Kennedy, who wrote for the majority, argued that corrections officials "must have substantial discretion to devise reasonable solutions to the problems they face."
Writing for the dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the strip searches were "a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy."
Mr. Hinkle added: "Respect for individual dignity and privacy in America must be restored. It seems like the majority of the high court has decided to short-shrift the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which specifically bars unreasonable searches. We call for the repeal of the USA Patriot Act and other so-called ‘home security’ legislation that infringe upon the rights of rank-and-file Americans."
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