Do I have the right to not undress in front of a male police officer?

Written by jennifer eblin
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During the course of a routine investigation, a police officer has the right to search a suspect for weapons, drugs, or other illegal items. Under certain circumstances, the officer will require the suspect to strip or undress in front of the officer, which ensures the person is not hiding anything on their body. Female suspects have the right to request a female officer and not undress in front of a male officer.

Types of Searches

A body cavity search gives the officer the right to search the vaginal or anal cavities of a suspect. Body cavity searches occur when a suspect has committed a traffic offence or misdemeanour crime and is either arrested or detained. During a strip-search, the officer checks under the woman's breasts, in the buttock area, and in the genital region. The suspect must remove all of her clothing or part of her clothing before the search begins.

Reasons for Search

Officers must have a valid reason for conducting a search or requiring a suspect to remove any clothing, but the reason varies depending on state laws. In the state of Ohio, the officer must have reason to believe that the suspect is hiding something that proves a crime was committed or relates to the criminal behaviour in question. For example, a female suspect might show signs of being under the influence of drugs. The officer has the right to search the woman for illegal drugs. A body cavity search can only be performed by a physician, nurse or medical practitioner.

Same-Sex Officers

Suspects are given the right to only be searched by an officer of the same sex. Male officers can only require male suspects to strip and only female officers can conduct a strip-search on a female suspect. The law in Ohio requires that the search take place in an area where no other officers can observe the search. The location prevents male officers from watching a female suspect remove her clothing.


In 2008, several females came forward with allegations against male officers in Stark County, Ohio. The women claimed that male officers required the women to strip in front of them and subjected them to specific types of abuse. If a male officer requires a female suspect to strip, then the woman may file a lawsuit against not only the officer, but the department for allowing the behaviour.

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