Dealing With Stop and Frisk Searches

Dealing With Stop and Frisk Searches

Imagine exploring the iconic urban landscape of New York City on foot — maybe you’re on your way to Times Square. Then, a police officer stops to pat you down “just in case.” How is this legal when you’re simply walking around in broad daylight? This is a “Stop and Frisk” search, and here’s how you handle one.

Key Points

  • A stop and frisk is a limited search where the police can stop a citizen and pat them down or frisk them to check for weapons, drugs or any other type of contraband. Officers need a reasonable suspicion to stop an individual and conduct this search. This is not an arrest, but if anything is found on the person they can be detained and arrested. If nothing is found, then the person must be released.
  • There are several factors that can cause reasonable suspicion leading to a stop and frisk. Some examples are tips given to police officers, being present in a neighborhood with a high rate of crime and fleeing from the police for no reason. Police intuition is also sufficient cause to stop and frisk someone.
  • Pat downs are limited to searching the outside of one’s clothes. Officers can only reach inside clothing if they feel a weapon.
  • If the police do not feel they have enough reasonable suspicions they may ask the individual for permission. It is within your right to decline this search. It’s also worth considering to comply with the officer’s request to prove your innocence.
  • Police have the right to stop you at any time. That doesn’t mean they’re above the law when they do search you. Officers must abide by strict guidelines when conducting a search.
  • In theory, Stop and Frisk is meant to protect the public. In practice, there’s enough controversy surrounding the law to warrant a class action lawsuit. Floyd v City of New York has ruled the law as unconstitutional, but New York has continued to enact this policy.

Understanding Stop and Frisk is crucial when navigating New York City, but the law’s implications are more far-reaching. If one city can pass this legislation and continue enacting it after a court ruling, then why can’t other cities follow suit? Learning how Stop and Frisk works could help you in your own community one day.