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Is stop and frisk legal in Wisconsin?

Violations of people’s rights are not uncommon in police investigations. For example, if police officers detain and search a person with no legitimate grounds for doing so, the evidence obtained in the search may be deemed inadmissible in court.

What is stop and frisk?

In some cases, police officers may engage in a practice called “stop and frisk.” An officer might stop and frisk someone without a warrant and then pursue criminal charges based on what the officer found in that individual’s pockets, backpack or elsewhere on the individual’s person.

Understanding lawful and unlawful stop and frisk

Stop and frisk situations are not always legally justified, and evidence obtained in a stop and frisk may be thrown out if the police violated the rights of the accused. Technically, state law in Wisconsin does authorize a police officer to detain an individual in a public space and conduct a search, which is essentially what occurs in a stop and frisk scenario. However, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.

Here is what Wisconsin law says about a police officer stopping someone for temporary questioning and searching that person during questioning:

“When a law enforcement officer has stopped a person for temporary questioning pursuant to s. 968.24 and reasonably suspects that he or she or another is in danger of physical injury, the law enforcement officer may search such person for weapons or any instrument or article or substance readily capable of causing physical injury and of a sort not ordinarily carried in public places by law abiding persons. If the law enforcement officer finds such a weapon or instrument, or any other property possession of which the law enforcement officer reasonably believes may constitute the commission of a crime, or which may constitute a threat to his or her safety, the law enforcement officer may take it and keep it until the completion of the questioning, at which time the law enforcement officer shall either return it, if lawfully possessed, or arrest the person so questioned.”

After a stop and frisk situation, an accused person’s defense in court may involve showing that the police officer did not have legal grounds for the stop. The defense may also involve seeking to get the evidence obtained in the search dismissed.

Police violations can lead to a reduction or dismissal of charges

If you are facing a criminal charge in Wisconsin, you need to know your rights, and you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side as soon as possible. To learn more about these matters, please see our overview of what to look for in a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney.