In the American government, it is up to the president to execute the laws that are created by Congress. This is why the branch of government that the president is in charge of is called the “executive branch.” Therefore, criminal defense attorneys – particularly those who specialize on federal crimes, like those at the Federal Criminal Law Center – watch presidential elections closely to see how the incoming president will enforce the laws. During the first presidential debate, something that Republican nominee Donald Trump said made every criminal defense attorney squirm – he said that he would create a national policy of “stop and frisk.”
What is “Stop and Frisk”?
In order to arrest someone for a crime, police need to have probable cause. However, there is a gray area between someone walking around freely and being arrested, just like there is a gray area between police having probable cause to make an arrest and having no cause to do so.
This is where the police tactic of “stop and frisk,” also known as a Terry stop, comes into play.
When police have a reasonable suspicion – something less than probable cause – that someone is committing a crime, then they can detain that person temporarily and quickly pat them down for evidence of a crime. This is called a “stop and frisk.”
Stop and Frisk is Legal, in Theory
In theory, stopping and frisking a suspect is legal. Police first started using it as early as 1968, when the Supreme Court of the United States recognized it as a valid police tactic in the case Terry v. Ohio.
Stop and Frisk is Often Illegal, in Practice
Unfortunately, the way that police use stop and frisk often violates the Constitution, making it illegal. Different police departments have adopted different stop and frisk policies. The one that Donald Trump praised during the first presidential election was the one used by the New York Police Department (NYPD).
This particular departmental use of stop and frisk, however, was deemed unconstitutional in federal court because of how much discretion it gave to police officers over whom to detain, and how often they then used their power to target minorities, particularly young black men. This violated their constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Dangers of Nationalizing Stop and Frisk
Despite it being declared unconstitutional and its clear ability to infringe on our constitutional rights, presidential nominee Donald Trump has suggested that it would be a good idea for law enforcement to use it not just on a department-by-department basis, but on a national level. The implications that this could have on our freedom would be extreme if it allowed to happen.
The Federal Criminal Law Center
The defense attorneys at the Federal Criminal Law Center focus their practice on defending people who have been charged with federal crimes. These are some of the most serious crimes out there, and having solid legal representation to see you through the process is crucial. Contact us online if you have been charged with a federal crime.