When most Minnesotans think of strip searches, they think of violent offenders or drug traffickers who could potentially be bringing dangerous contraband into a prison. A new United States Supreme Court decision, however, could change when Minneapolis-St. Paul law enforcement officials find it is necessary to subject a suspect to a strip search. Despite the extremely invasive and humiliating nature of a strip search, the Supreme Court has decided that police may conduct a strip search of anyone charged of any crime, no matter how minor.
This means that anyone accused of a white-collar crime, such as embezzlement, could be strip-searched before put in a holding cell. While embezzlement is certainly a crime, it is a theft from a Minneapolis employer; it is not a violent crime. Someone who is suspected of embezzling money from a company or individual isn’t going to be hiding a knife or some other kind of contraband, waiting to be outside of police supervision before causing mayhem.
Dissenting members of the court noted that strip searches don’t really uncover contraband that law enforcement would not have found through other means of searching a suspect. Justice Breyer wrote that there was only one instance in 23,000 in which jail officials discovered something through a strip search that they hadn’t found during a pat down.
So, what does this mean for the people of the Twin Cities? It means that anyone, even someone charged with a non-violent, non-drug-related crime may be forced to strip down and undergo a “close visual inspection” before being admitted to a jail. This applies to everyone, including someone who is accused of theft from an employer or someone arrested for something as minor as driving without a seat belt. It also applies to those who have already been convicted and those who are merely awaiting an arraignment, bond hearing or trial.
Source: The New York Times, “Supreme Court Ruling Allows Strip-Searches for Any Arrest,” Adam Liptak, April 2, 2012