Not to alarm you, but you just lost another bushel of freedom and dignity, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Handing Osama Bin Laden yet another victory in the war against civil rights, the court ruled 5-4 against New Jersey resident Albert Florence, who underwent the humiliation of a strip search following his arrest on a warrant for an unpaid fine. Worse yet, the whole debacle was a mistake, beginning with Florence’s arrest after a traffic stop of Florence’s pregnant wife on the way to his mother in law’s home for dinner.
Here’s the rub: Florence had paid the fine and was carrying a letter explaining the same from the court. Despite his protestations, Florence was hauled off to Burlington County Jail, where he was strip-searched, not once but twice, the second search taking place a full six days later, when Florence still had not yet had his day in court. The very next day, the judge dropped all charges against him.
Why should you care?
Before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, courts nearly always prohibited strip searches as the result of an arrest on minor charges. Those days are gone, as we again trade liberty for security in our current culture of fear.
In a shocking departure from common sense and any sort of defensible logic, Justice Anthony Kennedy basically deemed the circumstances of Florence’s arrest irrelevant. Kennedy focused instead on the crimes of others, i.e., the general prison population, who might be at risk (or presumably stand to benefit from whatever Florence might have stashed in an orifice). Or, worse yet, Florence might just be a terrorist. Or a gangster. Or a smuggler. Or whatever.
Stretching reality to suit his opinion, Kennedy said people arrested for minor offenses can turn out to be “the most devious and dangerous criminals,” offering that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s initial contact with the law was when he was stopped by a state trooper who noticed McVeigh was driving without a license plate.
Based on that logic, could we have saved the Murrah building simply by looking between McVeigh’s cheeks? Under his tongue? Hardly. Too little, too late.
McVeigh’s apprehension following his devious and destructive act is a testament to the effectiveness of traffic stops and intuitive community policing, something Kennedy blithely brushes aside by disregarding the nature of the initial arrest. McVeigh was carrying an illegal firearm, Florence a court document.
Who would you strip search?
Rather than violating the cavities of the citizenry without due cause, I suggest Justice Kennedy take a look up his own backside. That part, at least, should come naturally. His head is already there.