Search of a Person: The Pat-Down Search

We have already discussed the pat-down search or the stop and frisk. This is essentially a warrantless search because, as indicated previously, it is a limited search, as only the outer clothing of the individual can be patted down. And the primary purpose of a stop and frisk is to ensure the safety of the police officer.

Public Safety Exceptions

There are many circumstances encountered by law enforcement when the public good is paramount. For example, the police can pursue a fleeing felon into an apartment building and search for the individual. Likewise, if an armed suspect who just robbed a bank and shot a bank employee flees into a nearby neighborhood, the police could search houses and other places where the suspect or his weapon could be found.

Furthermore, public safety concerns allow for the search of airline passengers, and travelers (and their vehicles) who are crossing a border into another country. Evidence seized in these types of searches could legally justify an arrest and could be used as evidence in court (Florida v. Bostick, 1991).

Good Faith Exception

Another search that has been authorized by the court as not requiring a search warrant is when the initial warrant has an error, thus rendering it invalid. For example, if during the filling out of a search warrant the wrong address is entered on the warrant and the police carry out a search at that incorrect address, evidence found at the wrong address can be seized. In effect, the court has said that there is no misconduct by the police and it was a good faith mistake on the part of law enforcement.

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