Interviewer: How about a search of your person, or is that expected in a DUI investigation?
Kevin: Under the law, a police officer can search a person after an arrest. That’s an automatic right the police have to make sure that the person does not have weapons on his person. A police officer can search somebody to determine that the person doesn’t have weapons.
There Must Be Suspicion to Perform a Search Prior to an Arrest
Yes, after an arrest, the person can be searched totally for anything that’s in his pockets. However, prior to being arrested, an officer can frisk a suspect. The officer can only frisk a suspect if there is a particularized suspicion that the person may have a weapon.
In other words, the officer must suspect that the person is armed and dangerous. If there’s no real particular suspicion that the person being searched has a weapon, then the officer is prohibited from frisking.
During the frisk, the officer can go into a pocket and search it if it’s readily apparent that the item may be a weapon. Then, the officer can pull that weapon from that person without having a warrant.
Illegal Substances and the “Plain Feel Exception”
There’s also another exception called “the plain feel exception.” This involves an officer who’s searching for a weapon and then immediately identifies a bulge in the person’s pocket as being drugs or drug paraphernalia.
Then the officer can search the place where the suspected drugs are and pull them out without having a warrant.