Case Citation: Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, 566 U.S. (2012)
Parties: Albert W. Florence, Plaintiff / Appellant
Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, Defendant /Appellee
Facts: Arrested for a minor offense, Albert W. Florence was subjected to an invasive search by prison officials of the Burlington County Detention Center and then Essex County Correctional Facility, reasonable suspicion absent. That invasive procedure, as he claims, violated his constitutional rights.
Procedural History: Petitioner filed an action in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey under 42 U. S. C. §1983 against government entities that operated the jails for violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Federal District Court ruled that the prison officials’ actions violated the Fourth Amendment and granted the summary judgement against the defendants. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed.
Issue: Whether persons arrested for minor offenses must be subjected to an invasive search even if prison officials don’t have reason to suspect concealment of contraband?
Holding: Yes. Persons arrested for minor offences must be subjected to an invasive search even if prison officials don’t have reason to suspect concealment of contraband.
a. Safety and order in detention centers
Not every arrest for a minor offense leads to admittance to a jail’s general population. But in that case, a strip search of all new inmates is justified by medical and safety reasons. Exempting persons arrested for minor offense from suspicionless searches may result in smuggling weapons, drugs, and other contraband that may potentially lead to a dangerous situation for facility personnel, other detainees and offender himself. Thus, “a regulation impinging on an inmate’s constitutional rights must be upheld if it is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.”
b. Exempting persons arrested for minor offenses from strip searches
Practice shows that the changes suggested by the petitioner are not reasonable. There are precedents confirming that persons arrested for minor offences may be serious criminals . Detention officials don’t always possess the information about an arrestee’s prior and current offenses before the search in question. The possibility of discriminatory charges and violation of the Constitution may incline the officials not to subject detainees to a strip search and that may result in increased risk of danger in the facility.
The Court does not foreclose the possibility of an exception.
The detainees held apart from the jail’s general population do not always have to be subjected to an invasive search.
Conducting a strip search of a person arrested for a minor offense when prison officials don’t have reason to suspect concealment of contraband invades a person’s privacy and violates the Fourth Amendment forbidding an “unreasonable search”. Prison officials already conduct various procedures that make a strip search for medical reasons and for identifying gang-related tattoos unnecessary. There is a lack of evidence suggesting that there is a large number of cases when hidden contraband was found during suspicionless strip search of a person detained for a minor offense. Therefore, the invasive …