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When can Georgia police officers lawfully search someone’s body?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2024 | Federal Crimes |

Police searches can feel invasive and can also potentially lead to criminal charges. The average person knows that they have protection from unreasonable searches but may not actually understand what that rule means. After all, what is reasonable and unreasonable can be substantially different from one particular situation to the next. Georgia police officers can search someone’s vehicle or their living quarters in some scenarios. Other times, they may want to bodily search an individual.

Frisking or patting someone down is arguably one of the most invasive search procedures regularly performed in Georgia. When is it legal for an officer to bodily search someone?

When they obtain permission

Police officers can stop and talk with people in a variety of situations. Maybe they ask someone to step out of their vehicle during a traffic stop, or perhaps they have a brief conversation with someone on a city sidewalk. Officers may casually ask if they can pat someone down or search them during a conversation. Once an individual gives permission, an officer might then proceed to look in their clothing and any bags they carry for weapons and contraband. Anything they find might lead to criminal charges.

When they suspect the presence of a weapon

Without someone’s permission, there are restrictions on physical searches conducted by police officers. Specifically, officers can only search someone physically without their consent if they have a reason to believe there could be a dangerous weapon on their person. A suspicion that someone could have contraband is not an adequate reason to pat them down or physically search them. People who don’t understand this rule might end up enduring inappropriate searches and criminal charges based on illegally-obtained evidence.

When an officer arrests someone

Physically searching an individual taken into state custody is necessary for the protection of other people in the facility. Without a thorough search, police officers might arrest someone who has hidden weapons or drugs on their person. Thorough searches are therefore typically part of the arrest process and also the intake process at jails and holding facilities.

If police officers violate someone’s rights by conducting an inappropriate pat down, a lawyer can potentially use that to fight the charges that they face. Excluding evidence from a trial can be a key element of a successful criminal defense strategy. Those who know the limits on police searches can better assert themselves during encounters with law enforcement and after an arrest.