Strip-search victim describes ordeal

Albert Florence said his 10-year-old son still worries each time he sees a police car that it could be following his father, possibly to take him to jail again.

Six years after Florence was strip-searched twice following a routine traffic stop, he described at a news conference in Newark how he was ordered to stand naked, bend over and cough in front of jail officers.

“Everybody’s laughing in there; it’s like it’s a big party,” said Florence, 35, formerly of Mount Holly. “It lasted forever; it was horrible. I can even remember looking at a couple of the officers and one of them had a grin on his face … It’s disgusting, really disgusting.”

Florence was detained for seven days before it was discovered he’d been arrested in error. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear Florence’s case this fall.

Florence was a passenger in his family’s BMW x5 SUV on March 3, 2005, when a New Jersey state trooper stopped the vehicle, allegedly for speeding. His wife, then six months pregnant, was driving, and Florence’s son Shamar, then 4, was in the backseat.

The officer arrested Florence, leading him off in handcuffs, after he received information that a warrant had been issued for Florence for failure to pay a traffic fine. Florence showed the trooper paperwork to prove that he had paid the fine at least a year earlier, but the trooper took him to Burlington County jail anyway.

Florence was strip-searched in Burlington County and held for five days before he was moved to Essex County jail, where he was strip-searched again.

After seven days in jail, a judge confirmed Florence’s story and released him.

The appellate courts are divided over whether blanket strip-searches policies should be permitted in jails as a way to maintain prison security.