A controversial but common type of law in the United States, “stop and frisk”, is legal in Texas if and only if law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that a person possesses a dangerous weapon and may be a threat. If reasonable suspicion exists, the officer may temporarily detain the person and conduct a pat down to search for a weapon.
In Texas, many, though not all, stop and frisk searches are conducted during routine traffic stops. The officer must be able to articulate both a reason for the traffic stop and a separate reason for the stop and frisk.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion differs from probable cause. While an arrest requires probable cause, or reason to believe it is likely that you committed or are committing a crime, reasonable suspicion only requires circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that you are involved in some sort of criminal activity. Note that a stop and frisk could, depending on what is found, lead to probable cause and ultimately an arrest.
Is a Stop and Frisk Legal?
Whether a particular stop and frisk is legal is ultimately a grey area. Courts can decide based on precedent, but it ultimately comes down to whether a “reasonable officer” would have taken the same actions. The officer who performed the stop and frisk may well argue that you were behaving suspiciously, walking in a way that indicated a weapon in your waistband, or innumerable other potential justifications. However, if the officer cannot provide proof of reasonable suspicion, the stop and frisk may be ruled illegal and any evidence found as a result could be suppressed.
You always have the right to remain silent during any stop by an officer. You also have the right to refuse a search without a warrant. If you are not under arrest, you have the right to leave, and if you are under arrest, you have the right to an attorney.
However, it is never a smart idea to argue with a law enforcement officer. State your intent to invoke your rights clearly but calmly, and then follow the officer’s orders. It is far better to work with an attorney later to prove that your rights were violated than to escalate the matter at the scene.
Retaining an Attorney
If you have been searched under the stop and frisk law, it is vital to retain an experienced attorney right away, especially if evidence against you was found. In addition to your statement and the officer’s statement, courts will review such factors as the officer’s prior arrest history and video evidence from body cameras, squad car cameras, and the like. If you recorded the incident yourself, that evidence will also be reviewed. However, the matter is likely to be contentious, and only a skilled attorney can ensure that your rights are protected.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are involved in a criminal or family case, past president of the Montgomery County Bar Association, Andrea Kolski, has the background you need to win. For more information or to schedule a consultation,contact Nonstop Justice today at 832-381-3430.