How can police search you?

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There are three types of searches: pat-down, strip, and internal.

Pat-down search: is when the police feel the outside of your clothes.

They can

  • use a metal detector,
  • ask you to empty your pockets,
  • ask you to show them something they think is a weapon,
  • ask you take off any outer clothing like a jacket.
  • do this search in public or in private.

Strip search: Is when you are required to remove your clothes so the police can search you. It must be done in a private place.

Pat-down and strip searches:

  • are required to be conducted, so far as reasonably practicable, by police officers of the same gender as the person to be searched. In other words: women, including people who identify as women, must be searched by female police officers. This does not always occur – the unfortunate reality is that male police often strip search female suspects as a form of harassment and intimidation.
  • police can use reasonable force if you do not consent

Internal search: Is a search inside your body. It must be done by a doctor and the doctor must be the same gender as the person they are searching. You can say “no” to an internal search. If you say “no” the police must get a court order to do the search.

Where possible, verbally refuse to be searched.

But, if police insist then closely monitor them and don’t physically resist them. Physically resisting them could lead to you getting hurt.

You can say that you do not consent to being searched without physically resisting or hindering police.

Try to have as many witnesses as possible to follow and observe each police officer (there will usually be several). Use cameras and tape recorders, if you have them.

Speak to a lawyer, and where necessary a doctor, as soon as possible if:

  • police hurt you during a search;
  • you think the search was unlawful; 
  • police used racist, transphobic or other discriminatory language to you, or
  • you think police have breached other rights.
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How can police search you?

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