As members of law enforcement, the police have certain rights to behave in ways that civilians do not. However, this does not mean that the police have a carte blanche to act with impunity. In today’s post, we examine the legalities surrounding a controversial practice known as “stop and frisk.”
What is stop and frisk?
Stop and frisk is a practice by which a police officer stops an individual, questions them and then pats them down to search for weapons. This can seem like an invasion of personal freedoms – and sometimes it is. However, when carried out appropriately, the practice is legal under the landmark case, Terry v. Ohio.
In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that stop and frisk is not an infringement of the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure – if certain criteria are met. The police can lawfully stop and frisk an individual only if:
- The police have a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaging in criminal activity and
- The police have a reasonable suspicion that the individual is armed and dangerous.
If, during the frisk for weapons, the officer finds other illicit substances on the individual, the evidence may be be used against them in court.
IMPORTANT: Instances of stop and frisk are very controversial, and often the grounds for a stop and frisk are the subject of debate in criminal cases. If a stop and frisk is found to have violated a person’s rights, the evidence obtained in the stop and frisk may be thrown out and the charge dismissed. If you have been charged in connection with a stop and frisk, you need to talk to a criminal defense lawyer about your case immediately.
When is stop and frisk illegal?
In practice, stop and frisk is not always legal. As noted by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights activists, the police often carry out stop and frisk in an unconstitutional way – by targeting people in a discriminatory manner. This is against the law.
While stop and frisk remains extremely controversial, it is still regularly practiced by law enforcement throughout Louisiana. However, if a police officer cannot demonstrate that they had reasonable suspicion for stopping and frisking, then this often amounts to violating the accused’s right to protection against illegal search and seizure, and the evidence obtained in the stop and frisk should be thrown out.