Body cavity searches are sometimes necessary to prevent and regulate crime, especially the illegal transport or smuggling of drugs and other contraband. Body cavity searches are subject to very specific police search laws, and must be conducted according to certain regulations (including privacy issues and sanitation guidelines).

There are two basic types of body cavity searches: visual and manual. Visual body cavity searches usually involve:

  • Less intrusive inspections of body crevices, openings, and folds (such as the ears, nose, or rectum)
  • The use of a flashlight or other illuminating device to assist in visual confirmation
  • A combination of strip search procedures, pat-downs, and other types of searches

Manual body cavity searches may involve:

  • More intrusive physical contact including insertion or probing into more secluded areas of the body such as the rectum, vagina, anus, or other areas
  • Use of medical devices or instruments to assist in the body cavity search
  • In some cases, administering of laxatives or other methods to speed elimination of evidence from the body

When Are Visual Body Cavity Searches Performed?

Visual body cavity searches are typically performed as standard procedure in places such as jails, prisons, or psychiatric/medical wards. This is usually done to prevent persons from transporting drugs, medicines, or small weapons into the facility.

Visual body cavity searches may be part of the standard intake procedures for new inmates or psychiatric patients. They can sometimes also be performed at airports and other security check areas.

When Are Manual Body Cavity Searches Allowed?

Manual body cavity searches are often performed when a suspect is already in holding by the police authorities, usually on suspicion of smuggling drugs. In particular, cocaine smugglers often transport the drugs across international borders through the body cavities of “runners”. Police need at least reasonable suspicion to conduct either a visual or manual body cavity search. However, in some cases, police may need heightened suspicion in order to conduct a body cavity search, since they are much more intrusive and invasive than a visual body cavity search. In some cases, authorities have been sued due to an improperly administered manual body cavity search.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Visual or Manual Body Cavity Searches?

Body cavity searches are very sensitive procedures and must be performed with great care. You may wish to hire a criminal lawyer if you need help with a body cavity issue or if you believe that your rights have been violated. A qualified lawyer can help you understand your rights under state laws, and can represent you in court if a lawsuit is needed.