Florence v. The Board of Chosen Freeholders

Works Cited

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USA Today

One popular news media source, USA Today, wrote an article about Florence V. Board of Freeholders.

NJ.com

This is one of the many articles introducing the Supreme Court case to the public.

Constitutional Questions

The Fourth Amendment, as according to the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, directly states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The case of Florence v. Board of Freeholders poses the question: “Does the Fourth Amendment permit jails to conduct searches and seizures without any suspicion of illegal activities or possession of illegal substances?” The Supreme Court will also consider the question: “Does the Fourth Amendment allow for searches and seizures even for minor offenses?

Path to the Case

1. Albert Florence was arrested on a bench warrant in New Jersey for a minor incident, where he was taken to Burlington County Jail and visual body cavity searched. He was then taken to Essex County Jail and strip searched once again.

2. A civil rights lawsuit was brought to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey by Albert Florence for “his right to privacy and the rights of all persons in his class of alleged minor offenders embodied in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution were violated by the strip search and visual body cavity searches which is the policy of the correctional facilities involved.”

3. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled in favor of the petitioner.

4. Officials representing both Essex and Burlington County appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and won the appeal.

5. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in early October.

This time officers required him to do basically the same thing he had to do at Burlington County Jail: remove his clothing, open his mouth, lift his genitals, and shower. After his shower, the Essex officials extended the search to entail squatting and coughing if front of them.

Background Information

In 2003 Albert W. Florence had paid a court-imposed fine from a traffic offense and he kept a document of this in his car. In March of 2005, Albert W. Florence was in the passenger seat next to his wife, who was driving his BMW with their son in the back seat, when they were pulled over for speeding. The state trooper searched their records and found an outstanding warrant from the supposedly unpaid fine. Despite showing the document, Albert Florence was arrested. In the state of New Jersey, not paying a fine is considered a nonindictable offense, not a crime. Nonetheless, Florence was taken to Burlington County Jail where he was forced to undergo a “strip and body cavity search.” Six days later, he was transferred to Essex County Correctional Facility where he underwent a second strip and body cavity search. Just one day later, the charges were dropped.

Florence sued the Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington and Essex on behalf of all detainees booked for minor offenses since 2003 and subjected to strip searches

Projected Outcomes

As of right now, the ruling in the case of Florence v. Board of Freeholders can “head in either direction.” Thomas C. Goldstein, an veteran Supreme Court lawyer representing the Florence family, believes strip searches in jails should be limited to only individuals who clearly pose a threat to the safety of themselves or others in order to avoid “too much of an intrusion on an individual’s privacy and dignity.” Additionally, Susan Chana Lask, a local attorney of New York who is also representing the Florence family, stated that she “felt good’ about the trial: “They’re going to come up with the right rules and I hope it’s not ‘Let’s take the easy way out and allow all strip seaches.’” Several of the Supreme Court Justices seem to support the opinion of Lask as well. Justice Stephen Breyer stated that he “couldn’t find the justification” of strip search policies after being informed that illegal substances were only found in approximately one of every 64,000 strip searches. Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned strip search policies of the jail, stating: “You’re rule is, inmates aren’t entitled to any privacy rights in prison?” Justice Antonin Scalia has stated in previous, similar cases that these policies are “a violation of the Constitution.” As of right now, it seems that Albert Florence will win this “battle.” Overall, the verdict of this case will set a huge precedent for future interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Board of Freeholders, everyone can expect a lot more “invasion of privacy,” as law enforcement officials will be able to conduct strip searches for minor offenses and a lack of suspicion of criminal activity more often. However, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Florence, more regulations will be established to prevent “unnecessary invasion of privacy” by law enforcement officials.


background information of the case