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Illegal Pat Down Search (Terry Stop Case Law) In Louisiana

In State v. Denis, 96-0956 (La. App. 4th Cir. 3/19/97), 691 So. 2d 1295, the court found a pat down search to be invalid where the State's primary argument was that the stop and subsequent search had taken place in a high crime area.

In discussing the competing interests in a "Terry-stop" case, the court explained:

We recognize that the police have the right to ensure their own safety in an encounter with a suspected criminal.

Under both our federal and state constitutions, however, this right must be balanced against an individual citizen's right to be free from unreasonable searches.

Although sometimes appearing to be a legal technicality, Article 215.1 B represents the legislature's attempt to maintain that balance by allowing an officer, who has lawfully stopped an individual, to perform a pat-down for weapons, but only if he "reasonably suspects that he is in danger."

A police officer's duty to enforce and uphold the laws includes not only those statutes that define and prohibit criminal conduct, but also those which define and limit the government's intrusion into the lives of its citizens.

. . . The only way a court can determine if the officer reasonably believed that he was in danger is to require him to express that suspicion, and explain upon what it is based.

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