Stop and Frisk Constitutional Rights in Arizona

stop and frisk constitutional rights

If you’re being questioned for a crime, you’ll likely get frisked or receive a pat down. Just because you’re being questioned for a crime does not mean that you have no rights. It’s important to understand your rights in case you need to organize a criminal defense in Arizona.

A frisk or pat-down is intended to ensure for the officer that you are not hiding or carrying a weapon. It is less invasive than a full body search. The procedure is as simple as patting your outer clothing to check for any concealed weapons.

Your rights under the 4th amendment

Under the 4th amendment of the Constitution, you are protected from unlawful search and seizures, including a search of your person by a law enforcement officer. Case law following other trials have established a two-factor approval for a frisk to take place. These two factors are:

  1. Law enforcement must prove that there is reason to believe an individual is engaging in criminal activity.
  2. There is a reason for the officer to believe that the individual is armed and therefore dangerous.

An officer is required to provide evidence for such reasonable suspicion when choosing to conduct a search of your person or frisk. That officer should be able to clearly communicate what it was that gave him or her a reason to believe that you were engaging in a criminal activity and armed and dangerous.

A police officer cannot simply frisk you because you live in an area with higher crime or associate with individuals of questionable pasts. There must be reason for the officer to believe that you are associated with these individuals for a reason or are contributing to there being crime in your neighborhood. You cannot always control your surroundings so where you live is not enough cause for question or frisking.

To be a lawful frisk, an officer must see actions or conduct on behalf of the subject to warrant a search.

Causes of a justified frisk

A frisk can seem like a violation of personal space, but police are given permission to frisk people to protect both themselves and other citizens. Therefore, it is reasonable for an officer to conduct a frisk in the following situations:

  • Evidence that a person is about to commit a crime
  • If there is concern for the safety of others, including the officer
  • Concern over an individual being armed and dangerous
  • Subject is showing signs of being evasive or not answering police questioning
  • The behavior or body language of a suspect seems off or concerning in some way
  • An officer feels threatened and no back up has arrived to help

Upon reading the list above, you’ll see that there is much up to the discretion of the police officer in determining these circumstances. Just the same, the rights of the public should be protected when it comes to a frisk.

Criminal defense following a frisk and arrest

An unlawful frisk could result in impermissible evidence being considered as part of your court case. This hurts your chances of being released from the charges or could mean you face more severe charges.

An experienced criminal defense attorney in Arizona can help you argue for what should and shouldn’t be permitted in your criminal case. A frisk must meet the criteria set forth in Arizona law. When it doesn’t, you can ensure that anything coming out of the frisk is not permitted to be part of your trial in court.

A strong criminal defense attorney can examine all aspects of your case, not just whether or not a frisk was lawful. This expertise can be the difference in you receiving a lesser sentence or even avoiding criminal charges entirely.

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