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Is Stop and Frisk Legal in Texas?

Published: Nov 25, 2016 in Criminal Defense

Stop and frisk has been a hotly debated topic over the past several years. The practice, in which police officers can stop, question, and frisk people based on a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, has been employed in several cities across the country. While this program is understandably controversial and can be seen as unfair, essentially a stop and frisk program can become illegal if it is implemented in a racially-biased manner, but the practice itself is not unconstitutional.

In 2013, a federal judge ordered the NYPD to make changes to its stop and frisk program because it had been executed in a manner that violated plaintiffs’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. After these changes took place in New York, the practice significantly dropped off and likewise in other cities that also made changes to their stop and frisk policies, including Chicago, Boston, Newark, and Cleveland.

Furr v. Texas

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently decided whether an anonymous tip that a person was using drugs is, by itself, sufficient to justify a stop and frisk. In Furr v. Texas, the Corpus Christi police department responded to an anonymous tip that two white males were using drugs on a street corner. When an officer surveyed the street corner named in the anonymous tip, he noticed two males fitting the description and approached them.

According to the officer, Furr quickly walked away as he approached and repeatedly looked over his shoulder as he entered a nearby shelter. After another officer arrived on the scene, they entered the shelter to speak with Furr. The officers said that Furr was evasive, appeared nervous, and did not initially respond when asked if he was carrying a weapon. The officers stated that Furr appeared to be under the influence of drugs and frisked him for weapons, which is when they discovered drug paraphernalia and heroin.

Furr was then charged with possession of a controlled substance and subsequently pled guilty. Furr argued on appeal that the anonymous tip, by itself, did not establish reasonable suspicion and therefore did not justify the stop and frisk. The Court of Appeals disagreed, and held that the stop and frisk was justified given the totality of circumstances surrounding the anonymous tip.

On appeal, the Criminal Court of Appeals held that the anonymous tip, in combination with the police officers’ personal observations of Furr and the surrounding circumstances, supported a brief investigative stop and subsequent protective frisk for weapons. The Court did, however, declined to apply the “guns follow drugs” presumption to people accused of possessing drugs.

How an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges following a stop and frisk, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for help. Attorney Ned Barnett has been defending the constitutional rights of people for more than 20 years and has represented countless people charged with criminal offenses in the greater Houston area. He has the knowledge and experience to fight the charges against you and will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free consultation.