Terry v. Ohio

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Terry v. Ohio

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued December 12, 1967

Decided June 10, 1968

Full case name: John W. Terry v. Ohio
Citations: 392 U.S. 1; 88 S. Ct. 1868; 20 L. Ed. 2d 889; 1968 U.S. LEXIS 1345; 44 Ohio Op. 2d 383
Prior history: Defendant's motion to suppress evidence denied, 32 Ohio Op.2d 489 (1964); defendant convicted, 95 Ohio L. Abs. 321 (Cuyahoga Common Pleas 1964); affirmed, 214 N.E.2d 114 (Ohio Ct.App. 1966); review denied, Supreme Court of Ohio, 10-19-66; certiorari granted, 387 U.S. 929 (1967)
Law enforcement officers may stop and frisk someone for weapons on the reasonable suspicion that a crime is or is about to take place without violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed.
Court membership
Chief Justice Earl Warren
Associate Justices Hugo Black, William Douglas, John Marshall Harlan, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Abe Fortas, Thurgood Marshall
Case opinions
Majority by: Warren (text (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0392_0001_ZO.html))
Joined by: Black, Brennan, Stewart, Fortas, Marshall
Concurrence by: Harlan (text (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0392_0001_ZC.html))
Concurrence by: White (text (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0392_0001_ZC1.html))
Dissent by: Douglas (text (http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0392_0001_ZD.html))
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Amend. IV

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) was a decision by the United States Supreme Court which ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures was not violated when a police officer stopped a suspect on the street and searched him without probable cause.

Missing image
This juvenille, in the District of Columbia, was released shortly after this image was made after Montgomery County (Maryland) and D.C. police determined he was an unwitting passenger in a stolen vehicle.

Because of the important interest in protecting the safety of police officers, the Court held that police have the ability to stop someone and do a quick surface search of their outer clothing for weapons. This is allowed only when the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is committing a crime or is about to. This permitted police action has subsequently been referred to in short as a "Terry stop and frisk", or simply a "Terry stop."

The case

On October 31 1963, a Cleveland police detective named Martin McFadden saw two men, John W. Terry and Richard Chilton, standing on a street corner and appearing suspicious. One would walk past a certain store window, stare in, and walk back to the other to confer. This was repeated about a dozen times, and the detective believed they were "casing" the store for a robbery. The officer approached the two, identified himself as a policeman, and asked their names. When they appeared suspicious in their answers, McFadden patted them down for weapons and discovered that both men were armed. He removed their guns and arrested them for carrying concealed weapons. Terry was sentenced to three years in prison.

Terry appealed the case, claiming that the guns found should be inadmissable as evidence since his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. This was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that his rights had not been violated.

Subsequent jurisprudence

Terry set the precedent for Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983). In an opinion citing Terry written by Justice O'Connor, the Supreme Court ruled that car compartments could be constitutionally searched if an officer had reasonable suspicion.

The scope of Terry was extended in the 2004 Supreme Court case Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, No. 03-5554 (2004), which held that police may also demand that the suspect identify himself during a Terry stop without violating the Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

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