A police stop is a stressful situation that can cause you to feel panicked and confused. You might believe you have done nothing wrong, but the police may disagree.
The situation is escalated if the police want to perform a search. If the police suspect that you are committing a crime is there any situation in which they are permitted to perform a stop-and-frisk of your personal body?
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, there is an exception for police frisks under certain circumstances.
If an officer reasonably believes a person is committing a crime and has a weapon on them, the officer is permitted to perform a “frisk.” This means they can stop the person and pat them down to feel only for dangerous weapons.
If, through plain touch, the officer believes the person has a weapon or other type of contraband, they can seize the object. This is true whether the object is a weapon, drugs or another type of contraband object.
But the initial reason for the search cannot be expanded to look for drugs themselves — the initial reason for the search must be to look for weapons. But if, through plain touch, the officer happens to feel what they reasonably believe is drugs, then they can seize the drugs.
However, during a stop-and-frisk, an officer cannot reach inside a person’s pockets, or search a backpack, purse or other object that is not on their person, unless the officer has reasonable suspicion to buttress the search.
Consenting to a police frisk
If you are legally stopped by police and the police request a pat-down of your body or belongings, you can allow them to do so, although this might not always in your best interests.
You do not have to consent to the frisk. You can say, “I do not consent to this search.”
Know, though, that even if you say you do not consent to the frisk, the police can perform a frisk without your consent if they have legal grounds to do so.
You can reiterate that you do not consent to the frisk. Nevertheless, cooperate with officers. This is a stressful occurrence for all involved, and you do not want to put yourself in danger by intensifying the situation.