A body cavity search is a very specific type of police search that involves the search of orifices of the human body. Many people consider these searches to be very intrusive, and they are usually only reserved for very specific situations. They occur most often in relation to smuggling across international borders, but they can also occur with inmates in prisons or with persons traveling across U.S. state borders.

Body cavity searches often involve searches of the alimentary canal, digestive tract, rectum, colon, and other areas of the body such as the nostrils, ears, penis, or vagina. A majority of these types of investigations involve the suspect wrapping contraband in plastic or rubber, swallowing the object, and then retrieving it later after it has been smuggled pass security checkpoints. Body cavity searches are often regulated by the same types of laws that cover strip searches.

What Are Some Common Objects Involved with Body Cavity Searches?

Common objects being searched for with body cavity searches include:

  • Drugs
  • Money
  • Small weapons
  • Evidence of a crime
  • Syringes and other paraphernalia

Body cavity searches sometimes involve emergency situations where the suspect has swallowed or inserted an object and can no longer retrieve it. In such situations, emergency operations may be needed; these types of situations would not relieve the suspect of criminal liability if they are found with contraband.

When Is a Body Cavity Search Unreasonable?

A body cavity search can be considered unreasonable due to various factors. These will vary by state, but they generally include factors like:

  • The search was not necessary given the factual situation
  • The search was particularly invasive or resulted in severe physical harm to the person
  • Other persons were present at the search who were not authorized to be there or were not necessary to complete the search
  • The search occurred in a place that violated the suspect’s dignity and privacy

Evidence obtained from an illegal or unreasonable police search will generally be withheld from trial and cannot be entered into the record. In some cases, the defendant may sue the authorities for damages in a particular traumatic or illegal search.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Body Cavity Search Laws?

Body cavity searches must be conducted according to very specific guidelines and standards. A violation of body cavity search laws can affect the outcomes of a criminal case, and can also cause legal issues for the suspect. You may wish to hire a criminal defense lawyer if you have any questions, concerns, or legal disputes involving a body cavity search. Your attorney can inform you of your rights and can help determine whether a search was reasonable or not.