The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable stops, searches,
and seizures. But what about unreasonable frisks? In recent headlines,
“stop and frisk” laws have been stirring up controversy due
to the gray legal area they sit in.
The concept of a “stop and frisk” is when a police officer
tells a person to stop walking and remain still while they frisk them
for weapons or contraband. No matter how you view it, this is a pretty
invasive practice. However, it can be accomplished both legally and illegally.
Legal Frisks Need Legal Stops
The police do have the right to stop and temporarily detain someone
if any of the following are true:
- Appearing to be out of place – such as an unidentified adult in a
- Matching the general description of a current “wanted” flyer.
- Behaving strangely, emotionally charged, angry, afraid, or drunk.
- Loitering, trespassing, or rummage for an undescribed item.
- Running away from the police or behave furtively.
- Remain within an active and known crime scene.
Of course, the police always have the ability to stop someone based on
“reasonable suspicion” that they have recently engaged in,
are engaging in, or will soon engage in a criminal activity. Once a person
is lawfully stopped, they can be lawfully frisked
if the police officer then has reason to believe that a weapon or contraband
could be present on the detained individual.
Danger could be present if the officer:
- Has reason to believe they or another person will soon be harmed.
- Thinks the suspect will commit a crime that could involve a weapon.
- Recognizes the suspect from previous violent crime arrests.
- Is alone and without backup.
- Outnumbered considerably by potential suspects.
- Sees a weapon or contraband in plain sight.
- Is given elusive answers when talking to the suspect.
Any weapon or illegal substance found on someone during a frisk can be
collected as evidence, should an arrest actually follow. Frisking must
also be a quick pat down, not a thorough search of all pockets.
When Frisking is Unlawful
With the aforementioned legal definitions in mind, frisking becomes unlawful
if there was never a reason to make a lawful stop, or never a reason for
the officer to fear for their safety. Even in regards to legal stops in
potentially dangerous situations, the police are not supposed to root
through a person’s belongings during a frisk. Recent controversies
involve stories of police officers stopping people seemingly at random
and conducting full searches, but calling it a lawful stop and frisk.
Fight for Your Fourth Amendment Rights
Criminal defense cases originating from unlawful stop and frisks are both
complicated and terribly important. In order to keep the criminal justice
system honest and our law enforcement agencies trusted, only lawful stop
and frisks can be allowed, and any unlawful occurrences must be fought
vehemently in the court of law. If you need a powerful Jacksonville criminal
defense attorney that will never back down so long as you need help,
contact Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. and ask for a
free case evaluation. With more than 90 years of collective legal experience and a former prosecutor
on our team, we may have what it takes to have your charges dismissed