US police can now strip search for any offence

Things aren’t looking too groovy in the US right now. The supreme court has decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offence whatsoever. (Cue sexual bullying by the police.) This comes after two recent pieces of legislation that (i) let anyone be arrested forever at any time (the NDAA), and the ‘trespass bill’, which gives you a ten year sentence for protesting near anyone with secret service protection, which presumably means anyone in power (HR 347). You can read more about these horrors from Naomi Wolf here.

8 thoughts on “US police can now strip search for any offence

  1. I find it so hard to believe that these laws keep being approved in a country where so much of the political rhetoric is obsessed with individual liberties–and by those on the courts supposed to be most sympathetic to these same libertarian ideals, no less!

    Question: how does one know that someone is protected by the secret service? Are they obliged to declare this fact to people in the vicinity, or can the secret service bodyguards remain… secret? If the latter, then how does the law avoid actively promoting entrapment.

  2. I know – it’s unbelievable. Good question – I’ve no idea how one is supposed to know whether someone is protected by the secret service.

  3. The Supreme Court did not decide that “anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offence whatsoever.” It would be more accurate to say that the Court found that the federal Constitution does not contain a requirement that people being admitted to jail – at least to the “general population” part – be exempted from that jail’s general policy of non-touching strip searches on admittance, if they weren’t arrested for “serious crimes” and haven’t given specific reason to suspect contraband. In my view, it is not a good idea to look to the Guardian’s opinion columns for information about US legal developments.

  4. Nemo – you well know the context in which this ruling occurred. And it does boil down to the fact that someone arrested for even minor offences such as traffic violations can now be strip-searched even if there is no reason to suspect they have contraband on their person.

  5. Monkey, I understand the context of the S.Ct. decision, but I don’t think that’s universally the case (viz. the Guardian writer). I simply think that saying it boils down to that, without qualification, is overly reductive and likely to convey a wrong impression in several important respects. Why not say, it boils down to the fact that if you’re being put into the general population of a jail that has a policy of doing visual-only strip inspections for such inmates, they don’t have to make offence-based exceptions for you? I think that kind of puts it in a different light. In the past couple of days I’ve read people, for example, who are already under one or more such impressions as that this:

    -is a new law, or is something that was previously generally held to be unconstitutional or against federal law
    -applies to people who are arrested but not placed in jail
    -applies to jailed people who are not going to be mixed with a general jail population
    -relates to searches involving touching/groping
    -relates to arbitrary individual searches, as opposed to blanket incoming search policies
    -creates a positive right for jails to do this rather than simply failed to find a specific *federal* constitutional prohibition

    This suggests to me that the facts are not being summarized well by certain outlets. Just trying to avoid confusion, especially among non-US people.

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