40. Does "Stop and Frisk" Give Police Officers the Right to Regularly Detain and Hassle Me, Maybe Because of My Ethnicity?

  No. No matter what a person's appearance, the type of neighborhood, or time of day, an officer can detain a person only if the officer can point to objective facts showing a reasonable basis that that particular person is engaged in suspicious behavior. Undoubtedly, however, some police officers illegally use "stop and frisk" to harass "undesirables," confident that they can later articulate enough circumstances to justify the detention. Again, for their own personal safety, people who believe that they are unfair targets of police harassment should put their claims before a judge rather than act belligerently on the street.

  41. Seeing a Police Officer Walking in My Direction, I Tossed Away a Packet of Illegal Drugs. Can the Officer Pick It Up and Use It As Evidence Against Me?

  Yes. The officer neither detained the defendant nor conducted a search. The officer had the right to pick up whatever the defendant tossed away and make an arrest when the object turned out to be illegal drugs.

  Section VII: Searches of Car and Occupants

  This section discusses when the police may stop and search the car, the driver and any passengers.

  42. Can the Police Search Me or My Car Simply Because They Stopped Me and Gave Me a Traffic Ticket?

  No. A stop that only results in a traffic ticket is not considered an arrest that, by itself, justifies a search. (Knowles v. Iowa, U.S. Sup. Ct. 1999.) (See Section V for more on searches incident to an arrest.)

  Case Example 1: Officer Colombo pulls a car over for making an illegal left turn. Inside the car are four teenagers. The officer has no reason to believe that criminal activity has taken place. Nevertheless, believing that teenagers are especially susceptible to using drugs, Officer Colombo orders the driver and passengers out of the car and searches the car's interior. He finds two packets of illegal drugs, and places all of the car's occupants under arrest.

  Question: Was the officer's search of the car valid?

  Answer: No. Under these facts, Officer Colombo had no probable cause prior to the search to believe that the car contained drugs or any other evidence of criminal activity.

  Case Example 2: Vy Schnell is given a ticket for speeding. After issuing the ticket, the officer orders Vy to open the trunk of the car. Inside the trunk is an unlawful weapon.

  Question: Can the officer legally arrest Vy for possession of an illegal weapon?

  Answer: No. Under these facts the officer lacked probable cause to believe that contraband was in the trunk. And, the simple issuance of a citation is not an arrest that would convert the search of the trunk into a "search incident to an arrest." (See Section V.)