Stop and Frisk Laws
What is a “Stop and Frisk”?
In order for a stop and frisk to be considered legal, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is, or is about to be committed. In addition, the officer can only conduct the frisk portion if they suspect that the person is carrying a dangerous weapon. The main purpose of the frisk is to secure the officer’s safety before they begin questioning the suspect.
What are the Limitations of Stop and Frisk patdowns?
- Stop: the police officer needs a reasonable suspicion, supported by definite facts, that criminal activity has occurred, is in progress, or is about to occur
- Frisk: the officer needs a reasonable suspicion, based on definite facts, that the suspect is currently armed and dangerous
However, if in the course of the frisk the officer discovers illegal contraband such as drugs, it may become admissible as evidence in a court of law. For example, suppose the officer feels a bulge in the suspect’s pocket that might be a gun. If instead it turns out to be a package of drugs, the suspect may then potentially be charged with drug possession (although of course this would depend on the overall facts of the case). The important thing to remember is that the officer can only search for weapons during a stop and frisk.
What is meant by “Reasonable Suspicion”?
Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than “probable cause”, which the police need in order to conduct a full search and seizure for evidence.
What should I do if I am Stopped or Frisked?
- Cooperate with authorities: You should remain composed and avoid resisting police authorities. Do not try to run or attempt to avoid answering questions. Refusing to cooperate could lead to criminal violations such as obstruction of justice, and will raise the level of suspicion even if you are innocent
- Don’t incriminate yourself: While you should cooperate with police, you don’t need to say anything that might incriminate yourself. However, if you do have any information that could be helpful, you may wish to communicate this to the officer
- Know your rights- contact a lawyer: If you feel that you have been wrongly stopped and frisked, you should contact a lawyer for advice. Also, you may wish to consult with an attorney if you are unsure about your rights
You should understand that stop and frisk procedures are a necessary part of police work. If you are not found to be in violation of any laws, the officer will promptly end the detention. You will be free to go about your own business and the stop and frisk will not be recorded in your record.
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Last Modified: 01-27-2011 11:39 AM PST
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