Aggressive Criminal

Are stop-and-frisk police encounters legal in Texas?

On Behalf of | Criminal Defense |

People may end up interacting with police officers under a variety of different circumstances. Some people get pulled over while driving due to suspected traffic violations. Others may have police officers knock on their doors due to noise complaints or other issues.

There are also people who get arrested while out in public conducting their lives. Police officers sometimes stop people walking down the street to talk with them briefly. Those discussions can escalate into a criminal issue.

Police officers who stop people on the street may want to physically search them. People refer to such searches as a frisk or pat-down search. Is it legal for a police officer to search someone’s body in Texas during a seemingly random encounter in public?

There are strict limits on frisks

If police officers could go through the pockets of any individual they encountered, they could easily violate people’s basic right to privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches, and the courts interpret that Amendment to implement realistic modern rules for police encounters.

Following a Supreme Court ruling decades ago, there have been countrywide limitations on stop-and-frisk encounters. Generally speaking, the police cannot indiscriminately search people they encounter in public locations in the hopes of finding something illegal.

Police officers can only physically search someone in a few specific scenarios. They can search someone if they get consent to pat an individual down. They can also search someone that they have placed under arrest. Doing so helps ensure they don’t bring contraband into state facilities.

If an officer doesn’t have a reason to arrest someone or their permission, they can only search them physically in one situation. If an officer has probable cause to suspect the presence of a dangerous weapon, they can perform a frisk or pat-down search for their own safety. Suspicion that someone may have drugs in their possession is not an adequate reason to pat that person down.

Occasionally, those facing criminal charges in Texas, particularly drug charges, can question the legality of a police search of their person. Proving that an officer didn’t have reason to physically search someone could minimize the strength of any evidence the state may attempt to use in criminal court.