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Do I have any rights in a pat down search?


A police officer may, without a warrant or probable cause, briefly detain an individual for investigatory purposes if, based on specific and articulable facts, the officer has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity may be occurring. After making a stop, if an officer also has a reasonable fear of danger, he may perform a limited patdown of the outer clothing of the individual in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault the officer. The patdown must be confined to its protective purpose. An individual stopped may not be frisked or patted down for weapons, unless the officer holds a reasonable belief that the particular individual is armed and dangerous.

In Dixon v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined an officer’s patdown search of a defendant following stop for a traffic infraction violated defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment. The officer had received information from an informant that the defendant might be a drug dealer. After he received this communication, the officer investigated where the defendant lived and drove by his residence a couple of times but never saw any criminal activity. The officer started following defendant’s vehicle, and the officer made a traffic stop when the defendant turned without signaling. When the officer observed the defendant get out of car, he did not see a weapon in either hand and nothing about the defendant’s appearance led the officer to believe the defendant was engaged in criminal activity. The defendant did not exhibit any threatening conduct or belligerent tone of voice. The court suppressed the three bags of cocaine found on the Defendant from a patdown search performed by the officer because the search was not based on a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity might be occurring or on a reasonable concern for the officer’s safety.

Because the validity of an investigatory stop and a patdown search depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular case, you should immediately after your arrest hire experienced criminal defense lawyers such as Vonderheide & Knecht to help you fight the State.

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