FAQ CAN THE POLICE...?
Can the Police...?
…APPROACH A PERSON ON THE STREET AND ASK QUESTIONS?
Yes. Officers may approach and question people in public. The person may walk away or decline to answer. See Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491 (1983).
…FRISK A PERSON THEY JUST APPROACHED?
Yes, sometimes. Officers may frisk people for weapons when conducting an investigative stop, commonly referred to as a “Terry Stop.” See Terry v. Ohio, 390 U.S. 1 (1968). Before making an investigative stop, officers must reasonably suspect a person is involved in a crime.
…SEIZE ITEMS FROM A PAT DOWN SEARCH?
Yes. Officers may seize weapons and other contraband so long as the search does not go beyond a valid stop and frisk (a weapons pat down). Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366 (1996).
…REQUIRE A PERSON TO EMPTY HIS OR HER POCKETS OR REACH INTO A PERSON’S CLOTHING?
No, but officers may pat down the outside of clothing for weapons and may remove items that feel like weapons. Much depends on an officer’s language: if the officer asks a person to describe the contents of pockets, the situation will likely be treated as a consent search.
…SEARCH A PERSON?
No. Officers may pat down a person for weapons, but they need a warrant to search a person’s body and clothing for other items. Officers, however, may search a person lawfully arrested.
…STOP A CAR?
Yes. Officers may stop a car they reasonably suspect is involved in a crime or violation, including a traffic offense. Speeding even slightly over the speed limit or weaving may justify a stop. See State v. Lamme, 216 Conn. 172 (1990).
…ORDER A PERSON OUT OF HIS OR HER CAR?
Yes. Officers may order drivers and passengers out of a car pursuant to a lawful investigation.
…SEARCH A PERSON’S BAG, SUITCASE, BRIEFCASE OR OTHER CONTAINER?
No. In most situations, officers need a warrant to search a case or other piece of luggage. If the case is in a vehicle, however, officers may search if they have probable cause. Searches are also allowed at border crossings, airports, and other security checkpoints.
…HAVE A DOG SMELL A CAR DURING A TRAFFIC STOP?
Yes. Officers do not need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to have a dog sniff a person or car for drugs during a lawful stop provided that the dog is properly trained. They may not extend a stop just to wait for the dog’s arrival. Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405 (2005).
…ENTER A HOME WITHOUT A WARRANT?
No. However, officers may enter a private building without a warrant in exigent circumstances, such as emergency and hot pursuit, or if they obtained consent.
…REQUIRE A DRIVER TO SUBMIT TO A FIELD SOBRIETY TEST?
No. During a lawful traffic stop based on reasonable suspicion the driver is intoxicated, officers may ask a person to take a field sobriety test. The person may refuse. There is not a suspension for refusing the field test as there is for refusing the chemical test. It may however be used at trial.
…REQUIRE A DRIVER TO TAKE A CHEMICAL ALCOHOL TEST (I.E. BREATHALYZER, BLOOD, URINE)?
Yes. In Connecticut, the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend your license if you refuse an alcohol test. Refusing the test is not a crime, but a DUI criminal charge can be brought without chemical alcohol evidence.
…SEARCH A CAR WITHOUT A WARRANT?
Yes. Officers must still have probable cause that evidence of criminal activity is in the car. See Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925); State v. Dukes, 209 Conn. 98 (1988).
…SEARCH A CAR THAT HAS BEEN LEGALLY IMPOUNDED?
Yes. Officers may conduct an inventory search while the car is in custody provided that the department has a policy for doing so. South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364 (1976). See State v. Gasparro, 194 Conn. 96 (1984).
…SEARCH A CAR AFTER A DRIVER OR OCCUPANT HAS BEEN ARRESTED?
Yes. Officers may search a car incident to a lawful arrest if the person arrested may immediately access the car or if there is probable cause that evidence of the crime for which the arrest is based is in the car. Additionally, the automobile exception still holds. Arizona v. Gant, 129 S. Ct. 1710 (2009).
…SEARCH A PASSENGER’S BELONGINGS?
Yes. Containers and bags located inside a car fall within the automobile exception. If officers have probable cause to search inside a car, that includes containers inside the car. California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991).
…SEARCH THE BODY OF A PASSENGER?
No. Officers may not search passengers absent a warrant or exception to the warrant requirement, such as a search incident to a lawful arrest.
…LOOK INSIDE A VEHICLE?
Yes. Officers may look inside a vehicle from a lawful vantage point outside the vehicle.
…MAKE AN ARREST WITHOUT A WARRANT?
Yes and No. Officers may arrest a person in public without a warrant, and a court must determine the arrest was based on probable cause. To arrest a person in a private building, officers must have a warrant or be acting within an exception to the warrant requirement.