Courts in Maryland and around the country take the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable government search and seizure very seriously, but they have made exceptions and allowed police officers to conduct warrantless searches of suspects they reasonably believe to be dangerous to protect themselves and members of the public. What is known as the “stop and frisk” exception was established in 1968 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Terry v. Ohio. In that case, the justices determined that a Cleveland police officer did not violate the Fourth Amendment when he patted down two men who he thought were about to rob a store.
Maryland’s stop and frisk law
- They have good reason to believe that the individual is carrying a concealed weapon.
- They believe that the individual poses a threat.
- The circumstances make obtaining a search warrant impractical.
- They believe that action must be taken swiftly to protect the public.
What the law allows police officers to do
The stop-and-frisk law in Maryland places restrictions on what police officers may do in these situations. They must identify themselves as law enforcement officers, and they may only frisk suspects and pat down their clothing to find out if they are carrying a concealed weapon. They are not permitted to conduct more intrusive searches or inventory the contents of a suspect’s pockets. Officers are also required to consider factors including the suspect’s age, gender, appearance, physical condition and demeanor. When police officers in Maryland stop and frisk a suspect, they must submit a written report about the incident within 24 hours. If the suspect is arrested and charged, their criminal defense attorney may ask for a copy of this report.
When stop and frisk arrests are challenged, the key factor is whether or not the police officer involved had reason to believe that the suspect was armed and posed a danger to the community. If you are charged with possessing a gun after being patted down by a police officer, an experienced criminal defense attorney could study the incident report carefully to determine if the police officer acted reasonably. If they may not have, an attorney could seek to have the charge against you dismissed.