The use of “patfrisk” or “stop-and-frisk” techniques by police is a serious—and, in some communities, alarmingly frequent—intrusion on personal liberty and dignity. In Commonwealth v. Karen K., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) considered the case of a sixteen-year-old African-American girl stopped and patfrisked by Boston police, who discovered a loaded firearm in the waistband of her pants. The case provided an opportunity for the Commonwealth’s highest court to revisit some of the same highly charged questions of constitutional law at play in their controversial and fractured 2021 decision in Commonwealth v. Sweeting-Bailey, which we previously discussed on this blog.
The majority of adolescents in Massachusetts, at some point, engage in behaviors that could subject them to delinquency proceedings in Juvenile Court. Although most of those adolescents are unlikely to engage in that type of behavior more than once or twice, even those who are otherwise not at risk for reoffending are significantly more likely to reoffend once they are arrested, charged, and processed in juvenile court.