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When Can Police Conduct A “Stop And Frisk” In Indiana? Contact Us
Indianapolis Criminal & OWI Lawyers > Blog > Drug Crimes > When Can Police Conduct A “Stop And Frisk” In Indiana?

When Can Police Conduct A “Stop And Frisk” In Indiana?


The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. But there are a number of judicially created exceptions to this rule. One is for so-called Terry stops, named after a 1968 United States Supreme Court decision.

A Terry stop is basically where the police briefly detain a person based on a “reasonable suspicion” that person might be involved in criminal activity. This is a lower standard than the “probable cause” required to actually arrest someone. Furthermore, the courts have said that a police officer may take “reasonable steps” to ensure their own safety during a Terry stop, meaning they can conduct a limited search–usually a pat-down of the detained person’s outer clothing–for weapons. Because of this authority, a Terry stop is commonly referred to as a “stop and frisk.”

Court of Appeals: “Reasonable Suspicion” Justified Arrest for Meth Possession

Just how low is the bar for police to conduct a stop and frisk? A recent Indiana Court of Appeals decision offers some insight. In this case, Miller v. State, deputies from the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department were dispatched to investigate an anonymous 911 call reporting “a loud argument between a female and at least one male and excessive vehicle noise” at a local residence.

One of the deputies said he recognized the address of the residence, which he considered a “common nuisance” based on a prior incident where the homeowner was arrested for dealing in controlled substances. When the deputies arrived at the scene they found the defendant and two other people standing outside.

The deputy proceeded to conduct a stop and frisk of the defendant. The officer found “a methamphetamine pipe in [the defendant’s] right rear pocket,” according to court records. Based on this, the deputy arrested the defendant for possession of drug paraphernalia. A post-arrest search subsequently recovered a plastic bag containing approximately 24 grams of methamphetamine.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with Level 4 felony possession of methamphetamine and Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia. The defendant argued the deputy lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop and frisk, and as such all of the evidence obtained from the two searches were inadmissible. The trial court rejected that argument. A jury later convicted the defendant on both charges and the judge imposed a six year prison sentence, with all but 18 months suspended.

On appeal, the defendant renewed his Fourth Amendment objections to the Terry stop. But the Court of Appeals held the deputy had established “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a stop and frisk. The court noted that the deputies were responding to a call “regarding a disturbance at a residence in rural Whitley County near midnight on Memorial Day, and they encountered three individuals there” who were not residents of the property. The defendant also turned and started walking away from the deputies when they approached him. Under the circumstances, the Court said that was enough to create a reasonable suspicion that some criminal activity was afoot.

Contact Rigney Law LLC Today

The important thing to remember is that even if the police stop and frisk you, that does not mean you are required to volunteer any information that might be used against you. You always have the right to remain silent. And you always have the right to speak with a qualified Indianapolis drug crimes lawyer who can represent you in court. Contact Rigney Law LLC today to schedule a free initial consultation.



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