Thursday, May 24, 2012

Freedom & Strip Searches

Summer is upon us and summer makes me think of potato salad, fresh melon and freedom. In 2002 I argued a case before the Fourth District Court in People v. Johnson, 334 Il. App. 3d. 666 (4th Dist. 2002). The court ruled despite my arguments to the contrary that it was permissible to strip-search a person held on a civil warrant. Last month the United State's Supreme Court ruled in a case titled Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington. The issue in that case was if it was permissible to strip search a person accused of some minor infraction. The court ruled that such a search was permissible.

I obviously do not want to argue a person suspected of hiding a weapon should not be subject to a search before being placed in a jail population. If the officer has reason to suspect someone of hiding something they should be able to search that person prior to that person being placed in a cell. Yet the courts are saying it is fine to strip search a person when there is no probable cause or even reasonable suspicion to believe they are hiding anything. Further the courts approved not just a pat down search but a full on check your genitals type of strip search.

I don't believe these searches are intended to find weapons. After all a well trained officer shouldn't need to strip search a person to find a gun, knife or even a razor blade. Officers who stop you on the side of the road and do a pat down search know their lives may be on the line. They know how to do a thorough weapons search. Despite the claims in both of these cases the real purpose of the search is for drugs. I would rather one or two prisoners get away with a rock of cocaine or a joint up their hiney than thousands of people endure the humiliation of a strip search. A person should be punished for being late on a child support payment or for running a red light yet this added humiliation is ridiculous.

This is but another example of the willingness of a nation to throw away a gift as precious as freedom for the illusion of security. I don't know about you but I don't feel any safer since I had to endure searches at airports that are more intrusive than the moves a teenage boy puts on his girlfriend at the movies. I certainly don't feel any safer knowing that people who are picked up on a civil warrant are being strip searched.

As with most problems in this nation this is not one that can be solved easily at the ballot box. Neither party appears to truly desire to fight for the freedoms of average Americans. The one thing both parties seem to support is the weakening the Fourth Amendment. The Patriot Act as well as others are simply further attempts to strike down individual liberties. I can assume the name Patriot Act was intended to be sarcastic. As Samuel Johnson said in 1775  "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". I love this nation, and as a Patriot I would like to see her people remain free.

I understand most people do not support my position today. If they did politicians and justices might act differently. That being said I hope this blog gives you something to think about.The Constitution was designed to protect the individual from the government. As Ronald Reagan once said, "The Constitution is a document in which 'We the people' tell the government what it is allowed to do. 'We the people are free'".