A strip search is a search conducted on a person who has been asked to fully or partially undress to facilitate ease of identifying contraband material. This approach to personal searches is controversial in many regions of the world as it is deemed invasive. Law enforcement officers usually need to present compelling reasons for conducting a strip search as opposed to other types of searches, and the searcher generally needs to be of the same gender as the target to allay concerns about propriety.
In partial strip searches, people may be asked to remove bulky outer garments to make contraband worn on the body easier to see. Jackets, shoes, and belts can all be removed and people may be asked to remove a shirt or pants if there are additional concerns. These items may be searched by hand and the person can be subjected to a patdown, where a security officer carefully feels the body to check for abnormal objects. This search can usually be conducted in a public area, although people may be pulled aside to allow other people to pass.
Full strip searches, conducted in private, require people to undress to their underwear, and in some cases they may be asked to remove their underwear as well. In this visual strip search, the officer conducting the search can clearly see whether the person is wearing contraband on the body. For some settings, like prisons, the officer may also conduct a cavity search, checking the subject's mouth as well as other cavities. It is possible to secret various objects in a body cavity to pass through security checks, including medications, as well as some types of weapons.
The goal of a strip search is to enhance security within a controlled environment like a jail or airport. Depending on policies, everyone may be subject to search, or security officers may pick people at random for this more invasive search, while asking everyone to pass through metal detectors. Stationing officers of both genders in mixed gender spaces is required so someone will be available to conduct a search.
People have successfully sued in some regions of the world on the grounds that strip searches were unnecessary or invasive. In some cases involving searchers of a different gender, public exposure, or searches based on discriminatory profiling, people have successfully won these suits and received settlements to compensate them. People who are not sure about the legality of a strip search can ask for more information, including the names and badge numbers of the people involved in the decision to search, and details of the search itself.