Originally Posted by savafan
What is an illegal search and patdown?
I'm just curious, because a few years ago, I was patted down and searched for being the passenger in a car of a friend who was driving down a country road late at night. We were stopped for driving too slow, going ten miles under the speed limit in Champaign County. That is all we were doing, and we were pulled out of the car and searched for it. My friend had his pocket knife confiscated. The officer told he and I that we had to leave "his" county and that he didn't want to see us back there.
Obviously, we were both pretty angry, and didn't know why we were stopped and searched in such a manner.
I had a similar experience somewhere in southern Mississippi while on a camping trip with a bunch of my fraternity brothers when I was an undergrad in New Orleans. We were stopped at a roadside checkpoint which basically amounted the officers giving us all a hard time and telling us "not to be up to nothing" in his jurisidiction.
Technically speaking, the probable cause requried for a "Stop and Frisk" (known as a "Terry Stop" since the authority derrives from the case of Terry v. Ohio
) is relatively low. Basically the police officer must be able to have "reasonable suspicion" (based on his training as an officer and the circumstances of the time) to order you to stop and identify yourself. During such a stop, the police officer is authorized to pat a subject down when he feels that his safety may be in question. The pat down is limited to a tactile search only, and the police officer only has a right to remove and inspect objects that he believes are weapons or dangerous objects. The officer is also allowed to seize any instrumentalities or fruits of a crime that he finds to be in "plain view" during such a stop, so he doesn't have to ignore anything that he sees in the open or that you are carrying when he stops you. There is no requirement that an officer read Miranda warnings prior to a search.
Incidentally, these rules also apply to cars; the officer can only do a limited pat down of your person when he pulls you over and can only feel around the immediate area of the passanger or driver for weapons or other dangerous objects that might be ready-at-hand. Anything that he sees in the car that is out and in plain view, he has a right to seize and inspect.
Once an officer has cause to arrest you, he has the right to conduct a "search incident to a lawful arrest," where he is allowed to do a more thorough pat-down and also a more thorough search of a vehicle.