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When Police Pat-Downs Violate Your RightsThe police practice of frisking or pat-downs is controversial because of its invasiveness and connection to racial profiling. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people against illegal searches and seizures, which includes searching on a person’s body. In order to frisk a person, the officer must have a warrant to search for a specific item or reasonably believe that the suspect is armed and dangerous. Police have used the “armed and dangerous” exception to perform what they call “protective pat-downs” on people without establishing probable cause that they committed a crime. Evidence found during an unreasonable pat-down can be dismissed from a criminal case.

Police Encounters

There are three types of encounters that a police officer has with a member of the public:

  • They can arrest an individual when there is probable cause that the person is committing a crime.
  • They can briefly investigate a person that they reasonably suspect of committing a crime.
  • They can have a consensual encounter with a member of the public in which the individual voluntarily talks with the officer.

It can be difficult to differentiate between a consensual encounter and an investigatory stop. During a consensual encounter, the member of the public should feel like they can leave the encounter at any time, but the officer is often the one who initiates the encounter and presses the individual to answer questions. 

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stop and frisk, Illinois Criminal Defense LawyerPeople often have at general sense of how their rights work once they are arrested. The fact that there is a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney is read off by police on TV all the time. However, fewer people understand their rights during less serious interactions with police. One such interaction that is becoming more common is the Terry stop, also known as a stop and frisk.

Terry stops, named after the U.S. Supreme Court case Terry v. Ohio, are informal stops made by police when they believe there may be a chance that someone is committing or has just committed a crime.

When Police May Execute a Stop and Frisk

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