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A strip search must be founded on a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is concealing evidence underneath clothing, and the search must be conducted in a reasonable manner. To advance to the next level required for a visual cavity inspection, the police must have a specific, articulable factual basis supporting a reasonable suspicion to believe the arrestee secreted evidence inside a body cavity and the visual inspection must be conducted reasonably. If an object is visually detected or other information provides probable cause that an object is hidden inside the arrestee's body, a warrant be obtained before conducting a body cavity search unless an emergency situation exists. The removal of an object protruding from a body cavity, regardless of whether any insertion into the body cavity is necessary, cannot be accomplished without a warrant unless exigent circumstances reasonably prevent the police from seeking prior judicial authorization.
The police observed defendant and another individual involved in what appeared to be a drug transaction. Defendant's clothing was searched at the police station, but no drugs were found. Defendant was asked to remove his clothing and then ordered to bend over or squat. The police observed a string or piece of plastic hanging out of defendant's rectum. When defendant refused to remove the object, the police pulled on the string and removed a plastic bag that was found to contain crack cocaine.
Is it constitutionally permissible for police to subject a person arrested for a drug sale to a visual body inspection followed by a body cavity search without first obtaining a warrant?
The court reversed. Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and based on the difference in the degree of intrusiveness between visual and manual body cavity searches, a visual body cavity search could be justified by a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing a weapon or contraband. However, probable cause and a search warrant were required prior to a manual body cavity search unless an emergency situation existed. While probable cause existed in the instant case, no exigent circumstances, such as the imminent destruction of the drugs, were established; thus, a search warrant was required.