Stop and Frisk | Reasonable Suspicion in Utah

Utah Police Don’t Need Probable Cause to Stop and Frisk

The amount of justification required for search or arrest in Utah is probable cause.  Utah law enforcement performs many activities that do not reach the level of full scale intrusions such as search or arrest.  Utah police routinely stop citizens on the street or pull them over while driving in order to question them briefly or to enforce traffic violations.  Most investigative stops such as these would not be permissible in most cases if probable cause were required in these situations.

Since there can be legitimate needs for effective law enforcement to stop and frisk individuals, the Supreme Court set a new level of justification for police to stop and frisk.  The justification the Court established is “reasonable suspicion,” which falls below probable cause.  It is even less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a hunch.  The Court recognized that everyday encounters between police and citizens varied widely, but the fourth amendment’s reasonableness clause still applies.  The Court decided a flexible standard for measuring the lawfulness of such encounters was required.

Stop and Frisk in Utah Requires Reasonable Suspicion

The Supreme Court balanced the governmental interest in conducting stop and frisks against the interference with individual liberty and found that a police officer must articulate specific facts giving rise to “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity was taking place.  The additional step of patting down or frisking a person is a further intrusion which requires the additional justification that there must be a reasonable suspicion that the suspect may be armed and dangerous.  The scope of this protective search is limited to the exigencies that justify its initiation; therefore, it is restricted to what is necessary to discover weapons.

Usually police can only perform an initial frisk of a suspect to determine whether he or she is carrying a weapon.  Then if the frisk reveals a likely presence of a dangerous weapon, the police officer may perform more invasive actions such as reaching into pockets or other hidden areas to find the weapon.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Ensure Reasonable Suspicion Exists

If you have been charged with a crime arising from a stop and frisk, call a lawyer from Salcido Law Firm.  An attorney from Salcido Law Firm will evaluate your case and ensure that police had a reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk you.  Call a lawyer today at 801.893.1797.

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