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Security Check: body search, checking a bag, the vehicle...

Verified 13 January 2022 - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)

Additional cases ?

Identity Control

A security guard checked your hand luggage at a store? A police officer searched the trunk of your car? You had a security palpation at a sports event? This page shows the rules for the security check. In all cases, the law specifies who can control (police officer, doctor...) and under what circumstances.

The security palpation is an outdoor search, above clothing, for objects dangerous to security.

Security palpation may be carried out by the law enforcement officers of an event, by the authorised company surveillance and guard officers.

Palpation in police custody

When a person is placed in custody, a police or gendarmerie officer may carry out a security palpation.

The purpose of the security pat is to ensure that the person in custody does not carry a dangerous object.

Consent is not required.

Palpation must be made by a person of the same sex as the person being searched.

Palpation outside any event (sports, cultural...)

In the event of special circumstances relating to serious threats to public security, a police or gendarmerie officer may carry out a security palpation.

For example, in the event of a terrorist threat.

The express agreement is required.

The prefect of the department, or the prefect of Paris, establishes these special circumstances by order.

The Prefect shall fix the duration and determine the places or categories of places in which checks may be carried out.

For example, shopping malls.

If the person accepts palpation, it must be done by a person of the same sex.


for access a boat and board, in the event of a serious threat to public security, a security pat may be made. Person approval is required.

Palpation at a protest gathering over 300 people

For access to the premises of a demonstration with more than 300 spectators, a security officer authorised by the CNAPS: titleContent can perform a security palpation.

This could be, for example, a sporting or cultural event.

The express agreement is required.

Palpation must be made by a person of the same sex as the person being searched.

The procedure is under the control of judicial police officer (OPJ).

Full search

The integral search, also called body search, consists in searching on a person's body for objects which may be used to commit offence.

The person may be required to undress.

Full search is only possible in the following 4 cases:

  • Flagrant offence
  • Preliminary investigation, express agreement person
  • Letters
  • Search for customs fraud

Full search must be essential for the investigation.

It is only possible if the security palpation or the electronic means of detection are not sufficient.

The search is carried out by a judicial police officer (OPJ) of the same sex as the person in a secluded and enclosed room.

If the person refuses the search, the OPJ must notify the public prosecutor or the investigating judge.

Search inside the body

General case

Search of a person's body is only possible in the context of police custody, after a crime or a flagrant offence.

It is used when the person in police custody is suspected of carrying or concealing objects prohibited by law (narcotics...) within his body (vagina, rectum...).

Only a doctor can search the person's body.

Customs control

A customs officer may decide to search the body of a person suspected of transporting narcotic drugs.

The search is carried out by a doctor.

Person's consent is required.

In the event of a refusal by the person, the officer must apply to the judge for authorisation to conduct the examination.

The judge must then appoint a doctor.

If the person refuses to undergo the medical examination decided by the judge, a 1 year prison sentence and €3,750 a fine is provided.

Search in public

General case

A search of a person's personal belongings (bag, wallet, pocket...) is considered a search.

Only judicial police officer (OPJ) or a police officer may search a person's personal belongings, in the event of flagrant offence, preliminary investigation or rogatory commission.

A customs officer can search for fraud.

Surveillance, guarding or security officers, including authorised agents employed by private businesses, may visually inspect hand baggage.

They may also, with the consent of the person, search them.

However, they may perform their duties only inside buildings or within the limits of the places in their custody.

Terrorist acts

If terrorist acts have been committed public prosecutor may identify locations where inspections and searches may take place.

For example, a shopping centre.

In this context, the Judicial Police Officer (OPJ) may visually inspect or search baggage for up to 24 hours, renewable.

A volunteer serving as a member of the military, acting on the orders and under the responsibility of the OPJ, can also do these visual inspections and searches.

The visual inspection or search of the luggage must take place in the presence of the owner.

If requested by the owner of the luggage, the OPJ shall draw up a report indicating the place, date and time of the beginning and end of the visual inspection or search.

A copy of the minutes is given to the owner and another copy is sent to the public prosecutor.

Search at work

The opening of an employee's locker can only be carried out in the cases provided for by the company's rules and regulations.

The employee must have been informed of this opening.

A search of an employee's personal belongings may be conducted for reasons of collective security (e.g. risk of attack) or for reasons related to the search for stolen objects.

The employee must have been notified in advance and given his or her approval.

He may require the presence of a witness.

For example, a staff representative.

If the employee refuses, the employer can call judicial police officer (OPJ) to search his personal belongings.

School search

In schools, only one judicial police officer (OPJ) can search a student's personal belongings (bag, locker...).

The student must be present when his or her belongings are searched.

Search on board a boat

For access to a vessel and on board, a visual inspection of the luggage may be carried out and, with the consent of the owner, the baggage may be searched.

General case

The search of a vehicle is possible in the following cases:

  • In case of suspected crime or blatant offence committed by one of the occupants
  • Upon request public prosecutor in the context of research or prosecution of offences.
    For example, an act of terrorism, drug trafficking, participation in a demonstration or a public meeting while carrying a weapon.
  • To prevent serious damage to the security of persons and property.
    In this case, the consent of the driver is mandatory.
    In case of refusal, the vehicle is stopped for a maximum of 30 minutes pending the instructions of the public prosecutor.

The search must be done by a judicial police officer (OPJ) or, under his responsibility, by a judicial police officer or a deputy judicial police officer.

Customs officers have the power to search vehicles for customs fraud.

The search must be carried out in the presence of the owner.

Housing vehicle

The search of a residential vehicle (e.g. a barge, a caravan...) must be carried out as part of the search by judicial police officer (OPJ) in the presence of the owner.

It can thus take place:

  • In case of flagrant offence, without the consent of the person
  • On preliminary investigation, with the consent of the person
  • With rogatory commission

The search of the accommodation vehicle shall take place only from 6 to 21 hours.