A pat-down or frisk is a type of limited inspection where an officer checks an individual for weapons, while not conducting a full search of that individual's person.
A frisk involves a patting-down of a person's outer clothing by an officer. If the officer sees or feels a bulge in the individuals clothing, then more intrusive measures may be taken, for example, reaching into the individual’s pocket.
Unlike a full search, a frisk is conducted solely for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the officer and of others nearby, not to procure evidence for use at a subsequent trial. A proper pat-down search which goes beyond that which is required to determine whether an individual is armed is no longer valid.
For additional information, see stop and frisk.
[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]