Ever wonder how the law adapts to technology that makes it harder or easier for police to search and seize suspected criminals? Orin Kerr posits that an Equilibrium-adjustment exists. "Courts respond to the new facts by trying to restore the old level of protection. If a new technology or practice increased government power, courts ratchet up Fourth Amendment...
Terry v. Ohio (1968)
This case is considered a landmark Fourth Amendment case as it codified the law enforcement tactic of a "stop and frisk" search, colloquially known as a "Terry Stop."
In this case, a plain-clothed police officer witnessed two men behaving suspiciously. After identifying himself as a police officer, he stopped the men and patted them down on the outside of their clothing, eventually finding concealed firearms on both men. These two men were subsequently arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. Following the arrest, both men sued under the Fourth Amendment, claiming that the officer's search was illegal because he did not witness them committing a crime, nor did he have a warrant to search them.
Chief Justice Warren held that the officer's search was legitimate, saying that law enforcement officers have the authority to pat down a suspect only for weapons if they believe that they themselves or any bystanders are in danger.
These "stop and frisk" searches are only legal for firearms or other concealed weapons. Once the weapons are located, the officer has the authority to make an arrest and/or continue to search the subject. If the officer does not find any weapons, the suspect is free to go, regardless of what else the officer finds.
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