Stop and Frisk and Strip Searches in Iowa

The police may stop and frisk someone or even conduct strip searches in Iowa. However, that right is limited by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Iowa law. All searches must be reasonable, and the police may not violate your rights.

Stop and Frisk: What Is Reasonable?

Police officers generally have the right to pat down people they suspect of committing crimes. In Iowa, a frisk may only occur if the police have reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed, is being committed, or will be committed by the person they are patting down.

The lawful purpose of the pat down, or frisk, is to check to see if the suspect has a weapon. In this way, a frisk can protect police officers, and members of the public, from potential harm.

However, the right to stop and frisk is limited by law. The police cannot:

  • Stop and frisk someone unless they have reasonable suspicion that the person has, is, or will be committing a crime
  • Conduct an exceedingly invasive or indiscreet pat down
  • Make the pat down last longer than necessary

Any one of these things may make the frisk unconstitutional.

Are Strip Searches Legal?

In Iowa, a strip search is defined as having a, “…person remove or arrange some or all of the person’s clothing so as to permit an inspection of the genitalia, buttocks, anus, female breasts or undergarments of that person or a physical probe of any body cavity.”

Strip searches are more invasive than frisks and Iowa law requires that specific procedures be followed. Specifically:

  • If you are arrested for a simple misdemeanor and in the general population of a county jail or municipal holding facility, then you may be subject to a visual strip search. You may be subject to a strip search if the police have reasonable cause to believe that you are concealing a weapon or contraband. Before a search is done, the police officer must get written authorization from the supervisor on duty.
  • If you are arrested for a simple misdemeanor and not in the general population of a jail or municipal holding facility, then you should not be subject to either a visual strip search or a strip search unless there is probable cause to believe that you are concealing a weapon or contraband. Before a search is done, the police officer must get written authorization from the supervisor on duty.
  • The police need a search warrant if you are arrested for a scheduled violation but not in the general population of a jail or a municipal holding facility. To get the warrant, the police must establish probable cause to believe that you are concealing a weapon or contraband.
  • All strip searches must be done under sanitary conditions.
  • All strip searches, except those of the mouth, nose, or ears, must be done in a private place.
  • All strip searches, except those of the mouth, nose, or ears, must be done by a person of the same sex as you unless a doctor does the search.
  • After a strip search is done, a written report must be prepared. The report must include the written authorization for the search, your name, the names of the people doing the search, the time, date, and place of the search, and a copy of the search warrant, if one was needed. A copy of the report must be provided to you.

Additionally, if any body cavity other than the mouth, ears, or nose is going to be searched, then a search warrant must be issued. A body cavity search may only be done by a licensed physician unless you waived that right in writing.

Protect Your Rights After a Frisk or Strip Search Injury

Police brutality cases are complex. Whether you have a claim depends on all of the details that led to the stop and frisk or strip search and what happened during the frisk or strip search.

Frisks and strip searches can also result in painful and unnecessary injuries and sometimes sexual abuse. If you have been hurt, then we encourage you to contact our experienced Iowa police brutality lawyers today to discuss your rights during a free and confidential consultation.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham