A body cavity search is a procedure in which a person would be asked to remove his clothing in order to be searched for illegal weapons or other types of contraband. During this search, the person will be inspected from head to toe, including inside any body areas and other places where something could be concealed. Under normal circumstances, a body cavity search would be conducted by a trained professional with experience in locating hidden packages of devices on humans, such as a police officer, a medically-licensed physician, or a customs official. There are also electronic devices that allow clothed individuals to undergo the same procedure in certain circumstances.
By far, the most common place that a body cavity search is conducted is within prisons and other types of detention facilities. Inmates are often able to hide objects in areas of their body that regular pat-downs would not detect, so as a precautionary measure this tactic is used for verification purposes. A body cavity search occurs whenever inmates are transported outside of the facility or when an officer has reason to suspect that contraband may be present, and it is usually conducted in a semi-private location to reduce the level of embarrassment involved.
As far as the specifics of the search, it is normally conducted under very structured guidelines. After every garment of clothing is removed, the suspect individual will be asked to turn and pose at different angles in order to give an unobstructed view of each part of his body. This may include lifting certain body parts, twisting in reasonable positions, or bending certain ways to enhance the searcher's view. Each orifice will be spread by the suspect under the inspector's orders, and whenever the results are inconclusive, the procedure will be repeated. The authority may also request the suspect to cough or perform other actions that would give a clearer indication of the presence of contraband, but the inspector is usually not allowed to touch the suspect during the search.
There are also many other locations in which a body cavity search may take place. Airports commonly perform this process when standard scans are questionable, and it is also frequently performed at border crossings and inside other secure environments. In some areas, an electronic body search is possible; these devices provide authorities with a composite image of the suspect that can compare his actual body shape with the way clothing appears. While this method is rarely conclusive, it is used to obtain probable cause to conduct a more thorough body cavity search.