When can the police search your body or frisk you?

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Everyone in Tennessee has certain basic rights thanks to state law and the federal constitution. One of the most important rights you have when interacting with law enforcement professionals or other state agents is the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures granted by the Fourth Amendment.

Anyone in a position of state authority needs a justification to search your property or your person. However, there are plenty of police officers who will bend the rules about searching for evidence. There are others who will trick or manipulate individuals into giving up their rights.

An officer you encounter on the street might ask you if they can frisk you, which involves padding you down to search your body. Can an officer legally search your person without your permission?

Frisking is permissible in one specific scenario

Officers do have the right to pat someone down when placing that individual under arrest. Doing so is a basic precaution for their own safety and for the safety of others in state holding facilities. However, many officers will attempt to search or pat down someone that they do not have grounds to arrest.

Often, officers achieve this goal by talking to an individual and getting their consent. Once someone gives their permission for a search, an officer can potentially hold them responsible for anything they find. However, if someone does not give their consent for an officer to pat them down, such searches are only lawful when the officer has reason to suspect there could be a weapon present.

A frisk or pat-down is a legal way to check for the presence of a weapon for the safety of an officer. They cannot pat someone down to look for drugs or stolen merchandise without permission or the probable cause required to place that individual under arrest.

Do you believe a search violated your rights?

Some people only realize that an officer’s actions may have been illegal after they get arrested and indicted for a crime. The good news is that the evidence gathered during an illegal search may be evidence that a lawyer could keep out of your criminal proceedings.

Showing that there was a violation of your rights and that a police officer gathered certain evidence illegally could end up being a major component of your criminal defense strategy.


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