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Arizona high court affirms police searches require suspicion

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Supreme Court said police officers cannot frisk an armed person unless they establish reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring.

The court unanimously overturned the conviction Thursday of Johnathon Serna, who was searched by Phoenix police while out walking in October 2010.

Police said an officer was speaking with Serna when he suspected Serna had a firearm. Serna confirmed he had a gun and the officer frisked Serna and learned he had a prior felony conviction.

Serna's motion that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights was denied in Maricopa County Superior Court and a jury convicted him of weapons misconduct. The state Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.

However, the justices said police need constitutional justification to search an individual and ordered the appeals court opinion vacated.

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