The "stop and frisk" is the most common search and seizure procedure that citizens encounter with police. Though it may only last a minute or two and involve a pat down of the outside of your clothes, it is an intrusive and humiliating experience.
The police do NOT have a right to arbitrarily stop and frisk you. It is legal for a police officer to stop and frisk you only if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that you are involved in criminal wrongdoing.
An officer can not stop you based on a hunch. Rather, an officer must have specific and articulable facts that warrant the stop. In the course of stopping you, the officer may frisk you if it is reasonable to believe that you pose a danger. A frisk is a pat down on the outside of your clothes to feel for weapons. The officer may not go into your pockets even in a justified stop and frisk unless he has probable cause to believe that you have a weapon or contraband hidden away.
Get the identification of the police officer
In New York City, police officers are required to fill out a form called a "UF-250" when they stop and frisk someone, often they do not. If you are not arrested, there may be no paperwork to help you identify the officer who stopped you. So it's important to try to get the name and shield number of the police officer who stopped and frisked you. If you can not get that information, try to get a license plate or if it's marked the number on the side of the car. Any physical description of the officers can be helpful too. Also, make a note of the time, place, and date of the incident.
File a civilian complaint
Whether or not you have a good identification of the officer, you still have options. First, you can file a complaint with a civilian complaint review agency. In New York City the agency is called Civilian Complaint Review Board ("CCRB"). The phone number for the CCRB is 212-442-8833.
Hire a qualified civil rights attorney
You can also hire a civil rights attorney with the experience and willingness to take on the police department. You will have state tort causes of action and federal civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ?1983. Each state has different statutes of limitations for such lawsuits, so contact an attorney as soon as possible after the incident.
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