5-4 Supreme Court Gives Thumbs Up To Strip Searches By Jailers

Dividing on familiar ideological lines, the Supreme Court held 5-4 today that recently arrested suspects may be strip searched before they are placed in the general population of a local jail. The practical impact of this decision, however will likely be determined by whether lower court judges do an adequate job of policing an important line that Justice Alito draws in his concurring opinion:

[T]he Court does not hold that it is always reasonable to conduct a full strip search of an arrestee whose detention has not been reviewed by a judicial officer and who could be held in available facilities apart from the general population. Most of those arrested for minor offenses are not dangerous, and most are released from custody prior to or at the time of their initial appearance before a magistrate. In some cases, the charges are dropped. In others, arrestees are released either on their own recognizance or on minimal bail. In the end, few are sentenced to incarceration. For these persons, admission to the general jail population, with the concomitant humiliation of a strip search, may not be reasonable, particularly if an alternative procedure is feasible.