Is It Really That Simple?: Circuits Split over Reasonable Suspicion Requirement for Visual Body-Cavity Searches of Arrestees

In Bell v. Wolfish, the United States Supreme Court upheld visual body-cavity strip searches on pretrial detainees but called for a balancing of privacy and security interests. For the three decades following Bell, courts routinely read in a reasonable suspicion requirement as part of that balance. That changed in 2008 when the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that the Fourth Amendment permits strip searches of all arrestees, regardless of whether there is any reasonable suspicion that an arrestee possesses contraband. In 2010, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third and Ninth Circuits followed suit. In light of the recent split, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the Fourth Amendment permits a jail to conduct a suspicionless strip search of every individual arrested for any minor offense regardless of the circumstances. This Comment recounts the context of Bell, traces the courts' previously uniform interpretation of that decision, and explores this emerging debate, ultimately concluding that institution-specific security concerns could be a factor worthy of great weight in the Bell balancing equation.