Saturday, April 7, 2012

Retirement Warnings — Search Me!

By now almost everyone has heard about the Supreme Court decision upholding the right of correctional institutions to strip search those arrested for even minor infractions. The concern is that they might be hiding weapons in their nether regions, which could cause havoc once they’re mixed in with the general prison population. This type of search is uncomfortable to contemplate in the abstract, but when you hear some of the specifics, it’s downright frightening.

I’m glad my mother didn’t live to see this. It was bad enough having her lecture me on wearing clean underwear in case I got hit by a truck and had to be taken to the hospital. She would most certainly be telling me: “You never know when you might get arrested and strip searched.” Never know indeed.

It seems unlikely that the person out riding his bike “without an audible bell” was prepared for being arrested and strip searched. Likewise the guy driving around with a noisy muffler who was arrested and subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip-search.” Thank you, dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer, for sharing the above from the briefs submitted to the Supreme Court. Not to be confused with the briefs submitted for inspection as part of a strip search.

The muffler on my sixty-seven Volkswagen Beetle gave out when I was driving the New Jersey Turnpike with a friend, headed to Colonial Williamsburg. It was my first car, so on we went, mortified by the Harley Davidson noise we made, but clueless re what to do. Mercifully, one couldn’t drive in the Colonial sections of town or we might have been tarred and feathered. At that carefree age, that might sound charming. For most of us, it would be something else altogether.

As part of his humiliating search, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case had been told: “Spread your cheeks.” Without getting into TMI, I can tell you that if my cheeks were to spread anymore, it would not be pretty. We’re all perilously close to that humiliation, so choose your underwear accordingly.

Think you’re immune? Are you sure you’d never get stopped for driving without a license? Or violating the local leash law? You’d better hope so, because those are some other no-nos that have led to strip searches. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted with the majority, noted that “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.”

Let’s put that to the test. See if you recognize any of these "dangerous criminals" among your retired friends. Because if they’re arrested for their deviant activity, they’d better hope they have a spare pair of Depends handy.

Letty Lou was caught growing sunflowers that stood above the six-foot height limit for her retirement community in North Carolina. She was arrested for sowing the seeds of anarchy and her bloomers became the talk of the local police station.

On Long Island, Henry bent over to retrieve the morning newspaper from his front walk. The over-extended elastic in his twenty-year-old sweat pants gave way and his plumber’s butt flashed his neighbor. He was arrested for indecent exposure and had his plumbing inspected for hidden weapons. The fashion police are also looking into his case.

Need to hear more? Oliver was nabbed for driving into Boston in the HOV lane with a blow-up doll in the passenger seat. Not only was Ollie strip searched, but “Lola” was, too. Oh, the indignity! They take illegal use of the HOV lane very seriously in Beantown. Lola hasn’t been herself since.

The Philadelphia Ladies Investment Club descended on City Hall, demanding to hold their meetings at the American Legion Post. They were charged with civil disobedience for assembling without a permit. Every one was stripped naked as a jaybird and forced to expose her assets.  Shades of what happened to the nun who was arrested for “trespassing during an antiwar demonstration,” another case cited by Justice Breyer. You never know what those nuns have under their habits.

And in case you’re feeling safe because the bicycle you ride has an “audible bell,” consider what happened to Martha. She had a Texas-sized bell installed on the handlebars of her three-wheeler, and she rang it liberally as she pedaled through her Houston suburb. Turns out, her clanger was a tad too audible. She was arrested as a public nuisance and stripped of her bell and everything else she had on. Don’t mess with Texas.

Yes, my friends, the Supreme Court decision on strip searches will most certainly result in the long arm of the law eventually reaching out and touching us all—both figuratively and far too literally. The best advice I can give you is to stay current on your local statutes, be vigilant and always wear clean underwear.

1 comment:

FarberMSPH said...

I've heard that the Supreme Court has decided to issue a clairification against aggressive strip searches of nuns. A friend who clerks for one of the judges has told me that under strong pressure from the Vatican, our Supreme Court will be specify that police can perform a superficial pat down of a nun upon their arrest, as long as the police do not get in the habit.