Q: Is a male officer allowed to put his hand in the pocket of a female suspect during a search?
A: Typically the answer is yes. He should exercise care though. Most officers will have another officer - preferably a female officer present.
The only reason an officer should be placing his hand in anyone's pocket is to check for weapons. There is a lot of case law dealing with this issue. The primary case is Terry v. Ohio and its progeny. This type of frisk is called the Terry Frisk or a Stop & Frisk. An officer can briefly detain an individual to quickly see if he has broken the law.
The U.S. Supreme Court holds that for an officer to stop and frisk, he:
-Must be legally present at the scene. This means he must have detained the defendant lawfully; i.e., saw the person speeding, possession of contraband, fleeing, hanging around the outside of a business late at night, etc.
-The frisk must be "reasonable" in that officer is looking for dangerous objects in the pocket. The officer can squeeze the outside of the pocket and must feel something like a weapon before he can reach into the pocket. That is, if he squeezes the outside of the pocket and feels a bag of drugs, he DOES NOT HAVE authority to go into the pocket. If he feels something hard like a gun or knife, he can then go into the pocket and if he discovers contraband may make an arrest.
-Must have has reasonable suspicion to make the stop or contact the individual. He just can't stop you for no reason.
Hope this helps.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.