Stop and Frisk" Laws in the News


Stop, Question, Frisk

The last few years the stop and frisk policies of the NYPD have come under much scrutiny. A few years ago the NYPD instituted a "Stop, Question, Frisk" program that has been challenged by class action suits and has resulted in several trespassing charges being overturned by appeals courts.

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What is Operation Clean Halls?

Most recently, hearings have been held in New York courts challenging another stop and frisk program called "operation clean halls" where landlords can allow officers to police the grounds and halls of their buildings.

Plaintiffs say that the officers are so overzealous that even tenants have to carry identification to go do their laundry. Plaintiffs claim they will "demonstrate that police officers are unlawfully stopping people on suspicion of trespassing simply because they happen to be in public areas near Clean Halls buildings."

Given all of the scrutiny the prosecutor's office in New York have quietly adopted a new policy aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of those who may have been stopped unconstitutionally.

Stop and Frisk Law Origin

Stop and frisk law comes from the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which governs search and seizure law. In order for police to stop someone the officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion to suspect criminal activity, once they have suspicion they can stop someone to investigate.

We do see reasonable suspicion vary case by case, for example reasonable suspicion can be based on things such as facts seen and interpreted by police in light of training and experience; a profile, such as a drug courier or gang member profiles; and unprovoked flight. But reasonable suspicion to stop does not give the officer a right to search the person who has been stopped.

For a frisk, reasonable suspicion must justify the stop, and that the suspect is armed and dangerous. The government must show two reasonable suspicion types for a frisk. Meaning they must show reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to justify the stop and they must show reasonable suspicion that the individual may be armed and dangerous. Only then can the office search the suspect.

Change to the Law

Stop and frisk law in Tennessee has recently changed. This past May the Tennessee Supreme Court issued an opinion limiting the reasonable suspicion for officers. The opinion held that police must corroborate anonymous tips before officers can stop and frisk someone. Meaning that anonymous tips can no longer be the only thing that gives the officers reasonable suspicion. The court ruled that such tips must be corroborated with specific facts before the officer can justify a stop.

If you have been charged with a crime as a result of a stop and frisk there could be facts which invalidate the reason for the stop or the reason for the search. Only an experienced defense attorney can help you bring those specific facts to the forefront. Please feel free to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Bowlin Law Firm to discuss the facts of your specific case today.