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Oral arguments in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders

October 12th, 2011

The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders on the issue of whether “the Fourth Amendment permits a jail to conduct a suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense no matter the circumstances.” The Petitioner, Albert Florence, was arrested on the erroneous belief that he had failed to pay a routine fine. Upon his arrival at the local jail, Florence was strip searched.
Professor Orin Kerr of the George Washington University Law School attended oral arguments today and posted his thoughts on SCOTUSblog.com. Professor Kerr reports that the Justices seemed “skeptical” of drawing a line that would permit strip searches for some arrests but not for others. For instance, Professor Kerr notes, many of the Justices seemed unsure about what would qualify as a “major crime” (for which a strip search would be permitted) and a “minor crime” (for which, Florence argued, the Court should establish a case-by-case test).
It is, of course, always difficult to predict the Court’s eventual opinion simply from oral arguments. However, based on some of today’s questioning, it looks as if the Court may uphold the Burlington County jail’s universal strip search policy.
The transcript for today’s argument is available here.