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Frisking (also called a patdown or pat down) is a search of a person's outer clothing wherein a police officer or other law enforcement agent runs his or her hands along the outer garments to detect any concealed weapons In the case of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the Supreme Court of the United States held that police have the authority to do a limited search for weapons based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person stopped is "armed and dangerous".
The authority to briefly detain a person upon reasonable suspicion less than probable cause has become known as a Terry stop; when a search for weapons is also authorized, the procedure is known as a stop and frisk. To justify the stop, a law enforcement officer must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed.
If the officer reasonably suspects that the suspect is in possession of a weapon that is of danger to the officer or others, the officer may conduct a patdown of the suspect's outer garments to search for weapons. Pursuant to the "plain feel" doctrine, police may seize contraband discovered in the course of a frisk, but only if the contraband's identity is immediately apparent at the time of the frisk.