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Can a female cop search a male

Columbus, OH |

we where pulled over for a plate light and i had insurance and license . but then they wanted to search every one in the car. and i sai really over a plate light. and id every one i think it was because they where black is there any thing i can do. and there where male and female officer there but a female searched my husband

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Attorney answers 2


Absolutely, a female officer can search a male as long as nothing inappropriate occurred. Usually such an issue is brought up when a male officer searches a female. Police are given a ton of discretion and can search or pat-down males or females regardless of the police officer's gender for their safety. Sometimes a pat-down may feel like you are being groped, but anyone with law enforcement experience knows that people will hide things in a lot of places.

Now once in custody, the rules change if a more invasive search of the person is warranted. But again this usually applies to females. But while on patrol, out in the field, my information tells me that a limited search of the person is permissible for an officers safety, even if no arrest is made. What counts here is whether they had probable cause for the stop and based on the broken license plate light it appears that it was a lawful stop.

You have to consider the totality of the circumstances, like time and location of the stop, i.e., good or bad area and the time of day 2:00 p.m. as opposed to 2:00 a.m.

Probably nothing you can do and the stop was probably recorded on the dashboard camera of the police car.

I would inform you to forget about it and get the light fixed and maintain your car so you don't give the police probable cause to pull you over for a maintenance issue. I'll bet they also gave you a ticket. If they did't you should consider yourself lucky.

If you think something nefarious happened their may be a civilian review board, but as I understand it there was no arrest.

Good luck.

Legal disclaimer: I am not your attorney and we have no attorney/client relationship. This response is submitted for informational purposes only. This is not legal advice, nor is it intended to be taken as such. Anyone considering the above referenced situation should always consult an attorney within the jurisdiction before taking any action based on this, or any other information.


The short answer is YES, a female officer can legally search a man. There is nothing legally wrong with that situation, although you may have moral or personal objections to it.

The department policy really controls here; most law enforcement agencies prefer to have a male officer search a man, female officer search a woman, etc. Even if that department policy is violated for whatever reason, however, the search will still be valid, provided that ANY officer had the legal right to conduct the search.

The right to legally search a person is based on 3 things: 1) the place where the person is found -- i.e. on foot, in a vehicle, in a building, etc.; 2) the reason for the search -- i.e. officer safety, incident to arrest, entry to a secure facility, etc.; and 3) the specific facts of the conduct prior to encountering the police.

Any search of a person still has to be physically appropriate, meaning that the officer can briefly touch a person's body parts, but s/he cannot "grope" or touch in an inappropriate, sexual, etc. manner. As you can well imagine, the person being searched will have a very different opinion as to whether it truly was a "search" or more of a "grope" than the opinion of the officer actually conducting the search.

Remember, the 4th Amendment only prohibits UNREASONABLE searches, not all searches. Courts look at the "totality of the circumstances" when trying to determine whether the search was reasonable or not. During an investigative stop, where an officer has a REASONABLE suspicion that an occupant of the vehicle might be armed based on the "totality of the circumstances," the officer can do a quick protective search for the safety of himself and others. The purpose of that search is not to discover evidence, but to allow the officer to continue the investigation without the fear of being attacked. Ohio Courts use different factors to determine reasonableness, especially these:

(1) nature of the area where the stop occurred — i.e. high crime, bad neighborhood, etc.
(2) time of the stop/search — i.e., daytime, nighttime, when weapons could easily be ;
(3) the officer’s experience as a police officer and years of observing criminal activity;
(4) the officer's knowledge of how crimes occurred in that geographic area;
(5) the officer's observations of suspicious activity by the vehicle’s occupants;
(6) the officer's experience of finding criminal activity when other people acted the same way as the vehicle’s occupants; and
(7) whether the officer was in or out of the cruiser, such that being out of the cruiser makes them away from any protection if the vehicle occupants were armed.

Some cases involve even more extreme conduct than a questionable pat-down search. In Los Angeles v. Rettele (2007), the U.S. Supreme Court held that it was NOT unreasonable for officers executing a warrant to force a couple to stand NAKED in their bedroom briefly, even though the suspects who used to live there were of a different race than the naked occupants.

While there might have been some racial aspect to the stop, etc., I wouldn't worry about it; it would be almost impossible, to prove in Court.

Fix the burned out light bulb and check all the OTHER lights on the car as well. Do it at night time, when you can see the lights easier. Have somebody else in the car step on the brakes, apply the turn signals, etc. Don't drive with a cracked windshield either. In short, don't give the cops a good legal reason to stop your car. Wear your seatbelt. Use your cruise control and set it 5mph UNDER the posted legal limit. Don't think that because everyone else speeds, that you can speed as well. Hope this helps!

Atty. Dennis A. DiMartino
1032 Boardman-Canfield Rd.
Suite 103
Youngstown, OH 44512
330.629.9030 Ext. 111 Phone
330.629.9036 FAX

The above information is shared for educational and discussion purposes only. No Attorney-Client relationship is intended or established through your reliance on the information provided. If your legal rights could be impacted by using this information, you are urged to seek legal counsel before taking action. Atty. Dennis A. DiMartino 1032 Boardman-Canfield Road Suite 103 Youngstown, OH 44512-4238 330.629.9030 Ext. 111 Phone 330.629.9036 FAX