A New Cost for Unpaid Tickets: Possible Strip Search

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Add this to the list of reasons to pay those tickets before they go to warrant: A new supreme court ruling Monday gives authorities the right to strip-search you before you're admitted to jail regardless of your offense. That's even if they don't suspect you're carrying a weapon or drugs since, the court reasons, officials should have the authority to check for disease, gang affiliation (such as a tattoo), and contraband to reduce risk to the jail population. "The undoubted security imperatives involved in jail supervision override the assertion that some detainees must be exempt from the more invasive search procedures absent reasonable suspicion of a concealed weapon or other contraband," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

It's a sobering thought for the many people, your correspondent included, who have spent a few hours in the slammer for, say, riding a bike on a Brooklyn sidewalk after forgetting to pay a previous citation that then went to warrant. "Some potential examples cited by dissenting judges in the lower courts and by Justice Breyer on Monday included violating a leash law, driving without a license and failing to pay child support," The New York Times' Adam Liptak reported.

The case was born of this kind of thing, brought by a guy who spent a week in jail during which he was strip searched twice, after his wife was stopped for speeding while he was in the passenger's seat. The plaintiff, Albert Florence, is a lesson that even if you pay your tickets you've got to follow up on the record keeping: He had an open warrant from a fine he had paid, that a computer glitch said he hadn't.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.