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What Is a Stop and Frisk?

What Is a Stop and Frisk?

When an officer has reason to believe you may be armed, he or she may stop and frisk the outside of your person for weapons. The stop and frisk law in use today was established in the 1968 case Terry V. Ohio. In it, a detective observes three men pacing back and forth in front of a jewelry store. He stops the men, pats them down and finds illegal concealed weapons. The alleged robbers were convicted, and appealed their case on grounds that their Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures was violated.

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and found that when an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect a person may be armed, the officer may frisk the outer layer of that person’s clothing for weapons.

The following are some other important aspects of stop and frisk law that you should know about:

  • Hard objects — If during a pat down, an officer feels a sharp or hard object in your pockets, the object may be removed.
  • You can refuse a search — You have the right to verbally refuse a search. It is important that you do not physically resist officers, however.
  • Search must be reasonably related in scope — Law enforcement officers have the right to stop you if they have reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime. If officers believe you are armed and dangerous, they may also pat you down. However, police may not conduct a frisk for the purpose of uncovering evidence other than illegal weapons.

If you face criminal charges in Ohio after being stopped and frisked, you are legally entitled to attorney representation. Consult a lawyer who helps you obtain the best possible outcome to your case and protects your rights throughout the process.


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