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TERRY vs.

OHIO
Statement of the case: The D contended that the weapon seized from his person and introduced into evidence was
obtained through an illegal search, under the Fourth Amendment, and that the trial court improperly denied his motion to
suppress.
Procedure below: Petitioner sought review of a judgment from the Supreme Court of Ohio that affirmed petitioners lower
court conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.
Statement of the facts: An officer observed two men standing on a street corner. One would walk up to a store window,
look inside, and return to confer with his companion. This process was repeated about a dozen times. The suspects
talked with a third man, then followed him up the street. Thinking the suspects were casing the store, the officer
confronted the three men and asked their names. The men mumbled a response, at which time the officer spun one of the
men, Terry (D), around and patted his breast. He found and removed a pistol. D was charged with carrying a concealed
weapon. D moved to suppress this weapon from evidence. The trial judge denied his motion. The Ohio court of appeals
affirmed, and the state supreme court dismissed Ds appeal.
Legal issue: Is it always unreasonable for a policeman to seize a person and subject him to a limited search for weapons
when there is no probable cause for arrest?
Holding: An officer is justified in conducting a carefully limited search of persons whom he reasonably suspects to be
dangerous in order to discover any weapons which might be used to assault him or other nearby, even in the absence of
probable cause for arrest and any weapons seized may be introduced in evidence.
Reasoning: (Warren, C.J.) No. An officer is justified in conducting a carefully limited search of persons whom he
reasonably suspects to be dangerous in order to discover any weapons which might be used to assault him or other
nearby, even in the absence of probable cause for arrest. The exclusionary rule has limitations as a tool of judicial control.
In some contexts, the rule will not be effective as a deterrent, and will potentially exact a high toll in human injury. The
governments interest in preventing harm must be balanced against the invasion into a persons privacy. The policeman
should use an objective test, and be able to point to specific and articulable facts which reasonably justify the intrusion.
Standard would the facts available to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the search Warrant a man of reasonable
caution in the belief that the action taken was appropriate? Anything less would invite intrusions upon constitutionally
protected rights! . The Court went on to say that, effective crime prevention and detection is a governmental interest in
appropriate circumstances for purposes of investigating possible criminal behavior even though there is no probable
cause to make an arrest. It would be unreasonable to require that the policeman take unnecessary risks. He has a need
to protect himself and others in situations where he lacks probable cause for arrest. In this case, nothing in the conduct of
D and his friends dispelled the officers reasonable fear that they were armed. Affirmed, for P.
Concurrence: (Harlan, J.) An officer must have constitutional grounds on which to insist on an encounter, to make a
forcible stop. The right to frisk must be immediate and automatic if the reason for the stop is an articulable suspicion of a
crime of violence.
Concurrence: (White, J.) A policeman can address questions to anyone on the streets, but citizens are not obliged to
answer, and answers may not be compelled. A refusal to answer is no basis for an arrest, but it may be a basis for
continued observation.
Dissent: (Douglas, J.) Infringement of ones personal liberty is only reasonable if probable cause is present. The majority
gives a policeman more authority to make a seizure and conduct a search than a judge has.
Critical summary: This case represents a delineation between a reasonable belief and a reasonable suspicion. Probable
cause= reasonable belief. Stop and Frisk = reasonable suspicion backed by articulable facts.