Body cavity searches involve the search of bodily orifices and cavities during a police search for contraband. The authorities are typically searching for items that can be smuggled past security checks, including drugs, weapons, and other items. While each state may have slightly different body cavity and strip search laws, they generally must be conducted to standards which require steps, such as:

  • The search should not involve any touching that is not reasonably necessary to complete the search
  • The body cavity search needs to be conducted according to strict sanitary conditions
  • The search must be conducted by a physician or other person who is registered with the state and understand the health implications of such searches
  • The search must be conducted in a location that is private and not visible by persons other than the ones conducting the search
  • No other persons can observe the search unless that person is necessary for the search
  • The person being searched may usually have another person present if they consent

In some cases, the search can occur in a less-than-private location if it is necessary to prevent evidence from being lost or if there is a threat to public safety.

What Are Visual vs. Manual Body Cavity Searches?

There are two basic types of body cavity searches: visual and manual. A visual search is where the inspecting officer visually looks at bodily areas where contraband can be hidden, such as behind the ears, in between bodily crevices, or in other such areas. A flashlight is usually used to illuminate areas, and sometimes skin or other bodily parts can be pulled back to facilitate the visual search.

Manual cavity searches involve insertion of an instrument or finger in order to check for contraband. These are much more intrusive than visual body cavity searches, but they are often necessary in order to complete a police search for evidence of crime. Discretion needs to followed here because if a manual cavity search is conducted where a visual search would have sufficed, it could cause problems for the investigation and raise issues with the suspect’s privacy rights.

What If Body Cavity Search Procedures Are Violated?

Violations of body cavity search procedures can result in a civil lawsuit if the suspect was injured or experienced some form of trauma from the incident. Also, any evidence gathered from an unreasonable search will have to be excluded from the evidence record in an upcoming criminal trial.

Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Have Issues with a Body Cavity Search?

Body cavity searches are very serious matters and should be conducted according to the specified procedures. Violations of a body cavity search requirement can affect the outcome of a criminal trial. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need assistance with search laws. A qualified criminal lawyer can explain your rights to you and can help you with your case as needed.