Continued from page 1

The first strip search of Florence took place in the Burlington County Jail in southern New Jersey. Six days later, Florence had not received a hearing and remained in custody. Transferred to another county jail in Newark, he was strip-searched again.

The next day, a judge dismissed all charges. Florence’s lawsuit soon followed.

He still may pursue other claims, including that he never should have been arrested.

Florence, who is African-American, had been stopped several times before, and he carried a letter to the effect that the fine, for fleeing a traffic stop several years earlier, had been paid.

His protest was in vain, however, and the trooper handcuffed him and took him to jail. At the time, the State Police were operating under a court order, because of allegations of past racial discrimination, that provided federal monitors to assess stops of minority drivers. But the propriety of the stop is not at issue, and Florence is not alleging racial discrimination.

In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld a blanket policy of conducting body cavity searches of prisoners who had had contact with visitors on the basis that the interaction with outsiders created the possibility that some prisoners had obtained something they shouldn’t have.

For the next 30 or so years, appeals courts applying the high court ruling held uniformly that strip searches without suspicion violated the Constitution.

But since 2008 — in the first appellate rulings on the issue since the Sept. 11 attacks — appeals courts in Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Francisco have decided that a need by authorities to maintain security justified a wide-ranging search policy, no matter the reason for someone’s detention.

The high court upheld the ruling from the Philadelphia court, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case is Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 10-945.