Spread 'em: Supreme Court conservatives yesterday authorized prison officials to strip search anyone they arrest, no matter how minor the infraction.

Albert Florence of New Jersey was arrested by a state trooper for an outstanding arrest warrant for failure to pay a traffic fine. Florence had the receipt for the payment of his fine in his car, but the cop still took hauled him to jail, where he was held wrongly for seven days and strip-searched twice.

Recall: Kristi Noem had two such arrest warrants related to her traffic violations, and they were legit. She never got hauled to jail or strip-searched. She could be now.

Florence sued, arguing his search was unreasonable. But in this case, five Supreme Court justices say the needs of the few (jailers) outweigh the needs of the many (citizens innocent until proven guilty):

Writing for the court's conservative wing, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that jails are "often crowded, unsanitary, and dangerous places," and that, therefore, the courts must defer to the judgment of correctional officials in order to prevent new inmates from putting lives at risk with weapons or contraband that they may "carry in on their bodies."

...Kennedy said that given the number of total arrests each year — 13 million — it would be unworkable for correctional officials to exempt one class of prisoner from strip searches. Indeed, he added, even people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be "the most devious and dangerous criminals." He cited, for instance, the case of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who was detained initially for driving without a license plate [Nina Totenberg, "Supreme Court OKs Strip Searches for Minor Offenses," NPR: All Things Considered, 2012.04.02].

Indeed, Justice Kennedy, because Timothy McVeigh kept his 5000 pounds of fertilizer hidden in his underpants.

I'm not the only one alarmed by the un-Vulcan logic of this decision:

Bernard Harcourt, a law professor at the University of Chicago, however, called the decision "frightening ... the kind of logic that can turn a democracy into a police state" because it is premised on the notion of eliminating all risk at the expense of those who reasonably pose little risk [Totenberg, 2012.04.02].

New blog neighbor Terry Sohl rails the obvious conservative contradictions on intrusive government:

The story itself is maddening, but the reason I started this post wasn’t even so much the ruling itself, but because of 1) the complete hypocrisy from the conservative judges on the bench, and 2) that yet again, we have a SCOTUS decision that’s perfectly split between “conservative” and “liberal” judges.  Republicans bitch and moan about government interference in people’s lives…but yet they seem to have NO problem with the infringement on basic human rights and dignity in a case like this.  Republicans act indignant about ObamaCare, saying government has gone “too far” and intruded into peoples’ lives, but they have NO problem having a completely innocent man being jailed and twice strip-searched, just because he MIGHT have been a criminal.  Given the comments that Roberts and others made last week during the ObamaCare arguments, don’t you think they’d feel just a wee bit hypocritical for giving a thumbs up to an even bigger intrusion of government into peoples’ lives? [Terry Sohl, "Yet Another 5-4 Decision—Strip Searches," Feathers and Folly, 2012.04.02]

Welcome to the police state. Drop your pants.