No bike bell? Prepare for a strip search

I’m reading the brief submitted by the American Bar Association to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Albert Florence’s 4th Amendment lawsuit regarding blanket strip searches.

Did you know that in New Jersey, you can be arrested, jailed, and strip searched for riding a bicycle without a bell?

I’ve commented before about the selective enforcement of bicycle regulations for “biking while black” stops. Who doesn’t doubt that rules about bicycle bells are only used as a pretext to round up the usual suspects?

Bicycle bell

In Albert Florence’s case, he was pulled over for a traffic stop. When the New Jersey state trooper punched his name in the crime computer, he found an arrest warrant for an unpaid fine. Florence was handcuffed in front of his wife and child, arrested, and then strip searched because of New Jersey’s policy of routine strip searches for all incoming jailbirds. It turns out the arrest warrant was a mistake, but Florence still suffered the humiliation of two strip searches and a week in jail.

The Supreme Court will decide whether blanket strip searches are in violation of the 4th Amendment restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ABA notes in their brief that “Americans are arrested with surprising frequency for an array of trivial offenses. The class certified by the district court in this case includes individuals who were strip-searched after being detained for infractions such as driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal, and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.”

Bicycle bell photo CC BY 2.0 by Les Chatfield.

9 Comments

  • Jessi hance
    April 3, 2012 - 12:54 pm | Permalink

    My jaw is still hanging down from learning of this decision by the Supremes. Whaaa????

  • steve_a_dfw
    April 3, 2012 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Or, in the case of Chipseal, for simply riding a bike on the road against LEO orders…

  • Max Power
    April 4, 2012 - 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Actually, in NJ there is some protection.against unreasonable strip searches
    http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/04/nj_law_differs_from_us_supreme.html
    It’s not clear why Mr. Florence’s lawyer didn’t pursue the cops under state law.

  • Jack
    April 5, 2012 - 6:50 am | Permalink

    In MO we have a new crusade to ID the usual suspects by requiring them to wear reflective vests when cycling on roads.
    http://mobikefed.org/2012/03/hearing-tuesday-bill-requiring-mo-bicyclists-wear-reflective-vest

  • April 5, 2012 - 10:12 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Max, for that link to additional details on this.

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  • August 1, 2012 - 4:06 am | Permalink

    Excellent post Richard ! Bicycle bells are a great tool for riders
    to let people know your there. Whether it be other riders, pedestrians or even
    cars, a bicycle bell will let them know you’re coming through.

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