A body cavity search is where the police or other authorities visually or manually inspect a person’s body orifices and cavities for evidence of a crime. Due to the invasiveness of such procedures, there are various laws and regulations regarding how these can be performed. Body cavity searches commonly occur in locations involving:

  • Search Warrants: Police need a search warrant to conduct any kind of a search when a personal has a reasonable expectation of privacy. If a body cavity search needs to occur, this is often indicated in the search warrant.
  • Airports and International Borders: Body cavity searches are often performed by police, TSA agents, and other authorities at airports and international borders. Note that authorities generally do not need a search warrant to conduct a body cavity search at an international border, so long as they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
  • Jails and Prisons: Body cavity inspections typically occur when an inmate is being admitted to the facility. They may also occur in connection with facility criminal investigations.

Evidence that is seized as a result of an improper or unreasonable body cavity search is subject to exclusionary principles (i.e. the evidence will be excluded from the evidence record at trial).

Who Can Be Present at a Body Cavity Search?

In addition to these body search locations, the search needs to take place in an area that is private and does not expose the person to the scrutiny of onlookers. Even other police agents or inspection agents should not be present during a body cavity search if they are not needed or are not participating in the search. Medical sanitation standards must be followed. Also, more intrusive manual searches are typically conducted by a trained physician.

Thus, only a limited amount of people can be present at a body cavity search. In some cases, if the suspect being search wishes for a particular person to be present at the search, the authorities will allow that person to be present.

What Is a “Non-Routine” Body Cavity Search?

A non-routine body cavity search is a body cavity search that does not normally occur given the set of conditions and facts in the situation. For instance, a cursory body cavity search of persons being admitted into a prison, jail, or psychiatric ward would be considered a “routine” search. A search warrant is usually not required for a routine body cavity search.

On the other hand, a body cavity search of a person entering a department store, school, or other similar institution is not usually considered to be a routine body cavity search. Here, a search warrant will likely be needed in order to conduct non-routine body cavity searches in such locations.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Body Cavity Search Issues?

Body cavity searches are very specific types of searches that can only be performed under strictly controlled circumstances. You may wish to hire a criminal lawyer if you believe that your rights have been violated during a body cavity search. Your attorney can help inform and educate you on your rights. Also, your lawyer can assist and represent you in court if you need to attend a trial hearing or other formal court meeting.