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Can officers stop and frisk anyone in Montana?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2023 | Criminal Law |

Police officers are often eager to catch someone in the process of committing a crime, but they should always respect people’s civil rights when trying to establish a case against a suspect. There are limitations on how long officers can detain people without reasonable suspicion and also rules about the searches that they can conduct.

So-called stop-and-frisk encounters are among the most invasive experiences people may have when interacting with police officers. Sometimes, with seemingly little justification, officers will search somebody physically during an encounter and may then arrest them for what they find even though they had no reasonable suspicion to search the individual in particular.

Are stop-and-frisk practices legal in Montana?

Montana’s law has specific rules in place

There is federal court precedent that applies to police interactions in addition to state laws. Montana is one of many states that has a law addressing stop-and-frisk practices. Officers can briefly stop anyone that they believe may have played a role in recent criminal activity. They also have the right to physically search somebody’s person if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual may have a weapon.

Searching for drugs or other contraband is generally not permissible. Officers can only search for something that would put them or members of the public at risk, like a knife or firearm. If officers violate the rules in their eagerness to find something that implicates an individual, the lawyer helping to defend the party accused may be able to challenge the inclusion of evidence obtained through a legally questionable search.

Seeking legal guidance to learn more about the rules that govern police activity can often benefit those who are facing criminal charges.