Michael Velez was on the way to his construction job one day in March 2004 when a New Jersey state trooper stopped him for improperly changing lanes on Interstate 676.

It turned out Velez was a wanted man. The computer showed a warrant for unpaid parking tickets, $120 worth.

What followed, he says, was "a very humiliating experience."

Velez, 26, of Clementon, didn't get a chance to pay the fines. Instead, he was taken straight to Camden County Jail to await a hearing.

And at that time, everyone entering the jail, even for parking tickets, had to get strip-searched.

"They sent me in the room with the officer," Velez said, and recounts what he was told: " 'Strip down. Get totally naked. Lift your scrotum. Squat and cough.' "

"Then they told me to turn around and spread my butt cheeks," he said. "It was very demeaning."

He is one of two lead plaintiffs in a class-action suit that alleged the strip searches violated the Constitution. After it was filed in April 2005, the county changed its ways. Now, the jail no longer strip searches people arrested on minor offenses such as unpaid tickets. And people with unpaid tickets are given a chance to pay a fine and avoid jail.

In October, the county agreed to pay a settlement of $7.5 million. Lawyers estimate that as many as 20,000 people were wrongly stripped.

Velez, whose share of the money is $15,000, said he's happy the lawsuit forced changes: "There's no reason that someone stopped for a parking ticket would be pulled over and this be done."