Media Contact

January 18, 2017


PHOENIX—ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody will argue today before the Arizona Supreme Court against the use of general neighborhood characteristics by police to justify pat-down searches of individuals.

As a friend of court, the ACLU of Arizona will make the case that the general qualities of a neighborhood, such as the amount of crime that takes place there, cannot constitutionally be used as a factor to determine whether there is individualized, reasonable suspicion that (1) criminal activity is occurring and (2) the person to be searched is armed and dangerous, the requirements police must satisfy before frisking someone on the street. Neighborhood characteristics can only be lawfully used to develop reasonable suspicion if they are directly connected to the crime under investigation or have particular relevance to the person searched.

Brody will be arguing in support of the defense of Anthony Primous, who was improperly frisked in 2012. Primous was sitting, with a child in his lap, among a group of people outside a Phoenix apartment complex when police officers arrived looking for someone with an outstanding felony warrant. One person in Primous’ group ran away as the officers approached, but Primous remained seated, calm, and cooperative. The officers searched Primous, finding a small amount of marijuana in Primous’ pocket. He was subsequently prosecuted for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

The Court of Appeals approved of the search of Primous in part because the neighborhood where the search took place, between Papago Park and Arizona State Route 143 (the Hohokam Expressway), is “a neighborhood known for violent crimes.”

The ACLU of Arizona argues that the Court of Appeals came to the wrong conclusion and that neighborhood profiling, like racial profiling, is not a lawful factor in developing reasonable suspicion to justify a pat-down search.

“The Arizona Supreme Court needs to make it clear to officers across the state that the general qualities of a neighborhood, like race or ethnicity, cannot be used as a reason to violate the right to be free from police searches,” Brody said.

The ACLU of Arizona’s brief in the case is available here:

A summary of State v. Primous is available from the Arizona Supreme Court.

WHAT: Oral argument before the Arizona Supreme Court in State v. Primous.

WHO: ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody, counsel for amicus curiae ACLU of Arizona.

WHEN: 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Arizona State Courts Building, 1501 W. Washington St., Phoenix, Arizona 85007. Oral arguments may also be viewed at