Frisk does not mean “Lift up your Shirt!” – State v. Privott

[06/30/10 – 8:34 am] Yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the fact that the police have a legitimate basis to frisk a criminal suspect for weapons does not provide the officers with the right to lift the suspect’s clothing for the purpose of recovering evidence. In State v. Privott, a five-justice majority ruled that,

“In assessing the scope of the search by the officer, the evidence is clear that defendant was cooperative at all times. When stopped, defendant placed his hands against a fence as instructed by the officer. A reasonable search, as well as the least intrusive maneuver needed to protect the safety of the officer against a possible weapon, would have been the traditional pat-down search of defendant’s outer clothing. That did not occur. Rather, the police officer lifted defendant’s
tee-shirt to expose defendant’s stomach, and in doing so, observed a plastic bag with suspected drugs in the waistband of defendant’s pants. That maneuver exceeded the scope of the patdown search needed to protect the officer against defendant having a weapon and was akin to a generalized cursory search of defendant that is not condoned.”

Download a copy of the case, State v. Privott.

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