A citizen from Texas asked a good question of me last night. He mentioned that he and his two friends were stopped and searched as they were standing on the corner just talking, after having just finished working out at the gym. He stated that he believes the officer had no right to searched them and eventually, after some questioning by the officer, they were released. He asked me if I thought they had a good case to sue the police department for a violation of their Fourth Amendment Rights (an illegal search). After I learned how they were searched (the officer patted them down), I gave him my answer and thought it good to share with others. My answer…only if they can prove the officer just stopped them for no reason (but believe me, he’ll say he had a reason, read on).
Now if the officer actually went through their pockets, or searched their inner clothing, or made them remove their shoes, maybe they have a case. Here’s the reason and a good lesson to all.
Police officers are allowed to pat down or frisk you if stopped as a pedestrian. They are only to pat or frisk for an immediate weapon that can do them harm. A perfectly legal and I must say wise maneuver (they are humans and have a right to safety). They must only search for a weapon though! This maneuver or legal action is a called a Terry search, so named after a Supreme Court case involving John Terry of Ohio in 1968. When can he do this?
Only if a cop believes you have committed a crime, about to commit a crime, or actually in the process of committing a crime, then he can in fact perform a search (pat down and frisk). The police cannot just stop and search you however for evidence or just because he feels like it! A search for evidence requires a warrant, signed by a judge. If his search of you is detailed, then that’s a violation of your Fourth Amendment Rights…which is an unreasonable search and/or seizure! In this case an unreasonable search performed! If you can prove that, or have witnesses to a detailed search, you got a case, with a qualifier! The qualifier? If the cop finds a weapon on you through the frisk or pat down, he then possesses probable cause to search further (who knows, you might have another weapon).
You know the part above where I mentioned that he’ll say he had a reason to stop you guys? Let me tell you what all street officers know and play well. All he has to do is say that while observing you guys on the corner, he thought you guys might be considering committing a crime! He only has to articulate his suspicions in a reasonable matter, I’m not kidding, that’s what the law says, reasonably articulated!
This statement in itself gives him protection and safety! Definitely wrong and a violation of your rights, but you can’t prove it! Now do you see why all rogue cops must be reveal? We must remove them whenever they violate citizen’s rights, so that others may not suffer.
It’s simply too much power in the hands one man with control over lives! His word will be given more validation and truth simply because of the uniform! Scary huh? And since we’re on that subject, I believe it should be reverse. I believe that we, the public, should get the benefit of the doubt, first validation, and a presumption of truth!