Strip Searching Innocent Victims in the ‘Land of the Free’

Last July, Leila Tarantino, a citizen of Citrus County, Florida, was driving with her two children. According to a lawsuit she filed with the district court last week, Tarantino says she made a full stop at a stop sign, but was pulled over by police anyway. She was held in the back of a police car for two hours until additional police arrived. Tarantino was then strip searched twice on the street in front of her two children, ages one and four, and had her tampon was forcibly removed by a female officer. The cops didn’t find anything illegal, but still issued Tarantino with a citation for going through a stop sign.

You don’t have to be a legal expert to suspect police have overstepped their authority. Granted, this is only one side of the story, but similar situations are occurring all over the country. In many instances, the police strip search the victims of crimes. 

Consider this video from 2008, where Ohio woman Hope Steffey, is stripped search by police even though it is clear she is the victim.

(Sorry, embedding disabled. Watch it on Youtube.)

The victim in this case settled with the county for an undisclosed amount in 2009, but if this were to happen today, it is very likely Steffey would be unable to collect much if any damages since the US Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that anyone under arrest can be strip searched for any reason.

In Florence v. Burlington County, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the court is not in a position to second guess local police because, in the words of Justice Kennedy, “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.”

In that case, the victim Albert Florence was arrested for failing to appear at a hearing for a fine. He was taken to jail where he was strip searched, then moved to another jail where he was strip searched again. Police eventually realized Florence had actually paid the fine and he was released. Here, CNN describes the details of the case just prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but the Supreme Court does not consider it unreasonable for a man to be strip searched for allegedly failing to pay a traffic ticket. Using this reasoning, every police department in the United States can effectively strip search you at any time, for any reason.

There has to come a point at which we come to the conclusion that we no longer live in a free country. Some might argue that we’ve been living in a totalitarian state for some time, but when you can’t even be parked illegally without being strip searched by authorities at will, the debate is over.

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