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Illinois Stop and Frisk Laws

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
April 24, 2020

In this article, we discuss Illinois stop and frisk laws. Our Illinois criminal law lawyers address:

  • What is stop and frisk?
  • Is stop and frisk legal in Illinois?
  • What is reasonable suspicion for a stop and frisk in Illinois?
  • What makes a stop and frisk illegal in Illinois?
  • Proper response to a stop and frisk in Illinois

What is Stop and Frisk?

Stop and frisk is a brief stop by law enforcement where a suspect is stopped, asked to identify themselves, and potentially patted down for a weapon. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens by requiring police to have reasonable suspicion that a suspect may be involved in a past, present, or future crime before a stop and frisk can be initiated.

Is Stop and Frisk Legal in Illinois?

Yes. The police do not need special permission or a warrant to conduct stop and frisk procedures in Illinois, if they are motivated by reasonable suspicion. Charges that result from a stop and frisk performed without merit may be dismissed.

What is Reasonable Suspicion for a Stop and Frisk in Illinois?

A stop and frisk may only be initiated if there is a reasonable presumption that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed by the suspect. For example, if police come across a pedestrian matching a specific description of a recent bank robber, they likely have reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk the individual. The same can be said if the police notice someone dropping a suspicious object or running in the opposite direction after noticing their presence in a public area. In most cases, a pedestrian simply walking down the street would not stir up enough reasonable suspicion to warrant a stop and frisk.

What Makes a Stop and Frisk Illegal in Illinois?

There are a few situations that could deem a stop and frisk Illegal in Illinois, including the following:

  • A stop and frisk conducted without reasonable suspicion
  • An overly intrusive pat down
  • A drawn out stop and frisk


Stop and frisks can only be conducted with reasonable suspicion of a past, present, or future crime. Pat downs should only be conducted to quickly eliminate the threat of a weapon (though drugs or other contraband found while searching for a weapon can be seized) and if there is no probable cause for an arrest, a suspect must be released.

Proper Response to a Stop and Frisk in Illinois

If you are stopped and frisked by an Illinois police officer, resisting is often the most damaging response. Remember, a stop and frisk does not always lead to an arrest. Instead, keep the following tips in mind:

  • If you don’t want to speak, simply say “I would like to remain silent”
  • Should you choose to speak, know that everything you say can be used against you
  • You have the right to ask if you are under arrest or if you are free to leave
  • Stay calm; think clearly before speaking, moving, or reacting
  • Do not argue with or touch a police officer during a stop and frisk (even if you’re innocent)
  • If a stop and frisk results in your arrest, always ask for your lawyer immediately

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