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Determining Whether One’s Rights Were Violated When They Were Frisked By Texas Police

Police patting down a suspectThis is the next post in our series discussing how search and seizure laws can impact a Texas drug possession case. Our last discussion explained the situations under which an officer may stop someone on the street and the rights of a person once stopped. This post continues that discussion by looking at whether or not officers may frisk a person they have stopped and the extent to which an officer may search a person.

Texas police officers are only allowed to pat down a suspect for reasons of officer safety

We explained in our last post that Texas police officers must have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to stop someone on the street. An officer, however, may not pat someone down or frisk them simply because they have such reasonable suspicion. Frisking a person requires that the officer have reasonable belief that an issue is present in regards to police safety. In the landmark case of Terry v. Ohio, the United States Supreme Court held that an officer could pat a suspect down when the suspect was seen casing a jewelery store. The officer in that case had reason to believe there was a risk to safety because one casing an establishment, presumably to rob it, can be expected to be carrying a gun. This is different than say a case where an officer stops someone for jaywalking. The crime of jaywalking, in and of itself, does not raise an issue of safety for police officers. Evidence obtained during a legitimate pat down will be admissible in Court while evidence gained in violation of these rules can be excluded under the Fourth Amendment.

It is also important to understand that the police cannot reach inside of a person’s clothing simply because they see an issue related to safety. An officer may only reach into one’s clothing if the pat down gives the officer reason to believe that the person is carrying a weapon or something illegal. Known as the “plain feel” rule, this area of law only allows an officer to expand the pat down if they can articulate what it was they felt during the frisk (such as feeling a gun or a weapon).

It is not uncommon to see these principles violated by police officers in Georgetown and Austin, Texas. Police will often cite to “officer safety” as their reason for searching someone without articulating a reason for which they thought there was a safety concern. Police, therefore, sometimes make the mistake of thinking they can justify a search by simply attaching the idea of “safety” to any stop of a person. This is not how the law works. Officers need to be able to articulate an actual threat to safety to conduct a search. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer who understands this area of law is crucial to your case.

Contact a Georgetown or Austin criminal defense lawyer immediately if Texas police officers frisked your person and found illegal drugs

Our Williamson County criminal defense lawyers service Georgetown and the surrounding communities of Austin, Bartlett, Cedar Park, Florence, Granger, Hutto, Jarrell, Leander, Liberty Hill, Round Rock, Taylor, Thrall, and Weir.  Mark Morales has handled numerous drug cases where the defendant was stopped on the street by the police. Violations of one’s Fourth Amendment rights are more common than many believe. Contact an attorney today to learn more about your situation.

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