If you watch movies or television shows about prisons and police investigations, you have probably watched a scene depicting a strip search. But do you know how accurate these depictions are to real life strip searches? Perhaps more importantly, do you know your rights in the event that you are asked to consent to a strip search? Strip searches can be violating and when they are performed illegally, they can leave an individual feeling robbed of their agency and at risk of being wrongfully convicted of a crime.
What are my Rights During a Strip Search?
It is important to understand the difference between a pat-down, a strip search, and a full cavity search. A pat-down is simply the touching of an individual’s outerwear to feel for weapons if an officer has reasonable suspicion to believe an individual is armed. Full cavity searches represent the opposite end of the search spectrum, involving full searches inside the individual’s body cavities.
A strip search sits between these types of search. When an officer conducts a strip search, the suspect removes their clothing to allow the officer to search for contraband on their body.
Do I Have to Consent to a Strip Search?
If an officer does not have reasonable suspicion to conduct a strip search, they cannot do so without a suspect’s consent. Reasonable suspicion means that the officer has a good reason to believe the suspect is involved in criminal activity. Even when an officer has reasonable suspicion to perform a strip search, the search must be performed in a manner that does not expose the suspect’s body to the public or members of the opposite sex or in any way that can be deemed to be intrusive or offensive.
The lines surrounding the legality of strip searches can be vague. If you are not sure if your rights were violated when you were searched, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Why are Strip Searches Conducted?
Strip searches are conducted for a few different reasons. When an individual is suspected of carrying illegal drugs or a weapon, a strip search may be performed to determine if that individual is in possession of the object in question. In correctional facilities, strip searches are often conducted to prevent drugs and other contraband from being brought into the facility.
Simply being arrested does not mean that a strip search is appropriate. If you were arrested for an alleged offense that does not involve hiding contraband on your body, a strip search is not appropriate and if you are subjected to one, you have the right to file a police misconduct claim.
Philadelphia Police Misconduct Lawyers at Patrick G. Geckle, LLC Can Protect Your Rights
If you think you were strip searched illegally, fill out our online form or call our team of Philadelphia police brutality lawyers at Patrick G. Geckle, LLC at 215-735-3326 to schedule your free consultation in our Philadelphia office. Our team works with clients from eastern and central Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia area, Bucks County, Berks County, Carbon County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lackawanna County, Lancaster County, Lawrence County, Lehigh County, Luzerne County, Montgomery County, and Monroe County.