ACLU of Iowa Vows to Fight to Protect Iowa Statutory Law In Face of “Truly Appalling” U.S. Supreme Court Decision
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Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling in the case involving a
man strip searched after being arrested for failure to pay a fine. The Court, in a 5-4 decision,
ruled that those arrested for even minor traffic violations may be strip searched before being
admitted to jail–even if the government has no reason whatsoever to suspect they are
concealing a weapon or contraband.
ACLU of Iowa Executive Director points out that fortunately, Iowa has a law that forbids such
strip searches of people brought in for relatively minor infractions, and said his organization
will fight any attempts to alter that law in the aftermath of Monday’s decision.
Monday’s decision, Albert Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, “is a shocking decision that is truly appalling in its endorsement of the practice of strip searching all
arrestees for even the most minor of offenses,” Stone said. “It will enable police and jail
personnel in most states to search the body cavities of protesters taken into custody for simple
trespass—a practice which has profound and grave implications for freedoms protected by the
First Amendment. The ACLU of Iowa strongly condemns this ruling as more typical to
totalitarian regimes like China, Syria and North Korea—where police state forces routinely use
such tactics to humiliate political dissenters after arrest.”
Iowa Code Section 804.30, a state statute last amended by the Iowa Legislature in 1981, strictly
forbids strip searches of persons brought into custody for routine traffic infractions (“scheduled
violations”) or simple misdemeanors “unless there is probable cause to believe the person is
concealing a weapon or contraband.” The law also requires a judicial warrant for searches of
“body cavities other than mouth, ears, or nose.”
The Supreme Court decision yesterday simply gave permission to prisons to perform such
searches, if they wish. However, since Iowa law specifically prohibits such invasive searches,
those arrested in Iowa in these types of incidents could not be strip searched without probable
“Thankfully, Iowans do not live in a totalitarian regime, but in a democracy,” Stone said. “In
fact, Iowa is one of only ten states with this kind of statutory protection for its citizens. The
people of Iowa should be grateful that their representatives more than 30 years ago wisely
enacted this law to protect them from the kind of humiliating abuses the Florence decision
invites. The ACLU of Iowa and its members support existing Iowa law protecting it citizens
from this level of unnecessary and invasive practice. We wil work tirelessly to oppose any
attempt to take away Iowans’ existing rights.”
Link to Iowa Code Section 804.30:
Link to Florence v. County of Burlington:
Link to ACLU amicus brief, which mentions Iowa Code Section 804.30 on page 10:
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