Florence v. Burlington

On January 19, 2010, the ACLU-NJ and ACLU-National Prison Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of five former New Jersey Attorneys General, opposing the blanket strip search policies of the Burlington County Jail and Essex County Correctional Facility. The jails' policies currently require strip searches of all arrestees, even those charged with but not convicted of minor offenses, and even when there is no reasonable suspicion that an arrestee possesses contraband. The brief explains that searching every detainee is unconstitutional, it contributes little to jail security and it creates an intolerable risk of subjecting detainees to needless humiliation. It also goes against the spirit of an Attorney General directive, issued in 1993, that prohibits strip searches of arrestees in municipal facilities if the officers do not have reasonable suspicion. The brief supports the lower court's decision that prevents strip searches for non-indictable offenses that do not involve contraband and when there is no reasonable suspicion to suspect contraband. Florence filed this lawsuit in 2005 after being subjected to strip searches following his erroneous arrest during a 2005 traffic stop for a fine he had already paid. He was ordered during the searches to squat naked and, while standing in front of prison guards, to lift his genitals. Mr. Florence was successful at the trial court, but lost on appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The ACLU-NJ filed a similar brief in the previous appeal. On April 02, 2012, the United Supreme Court released a 5-4 ruling in favor of the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders, stating that the search procedures at the county jail struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the needs of the jail.

The former New Jersey Attorneys General represented by the ACLU-NJ are: Robert J. Del Tufo, former Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz, John J. Farmer Jr., Peter C. Harvey and Zulima V. Farber.

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