Terry v. Ohio

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In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the search under the Fourth Amendment of a person and allowed the admission of the evidence discovered, but imposed a limitation on random stops by police of suspects.

First, the stop is permissible only if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person may be involved in a crime. An officer's reasonable suspicion that a person may be involved in criminal activity permits the officer to stop the person for a brief time and take additional steps to investigate further.

Under Terry, an investigatory stop based on reasonable suspicion must be "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place." Terry, 392 U.S. at 20.

In conducting a Terry stop, law enforcement agents may intrude on privacy and property interests protected by the Fourth Amendment only insofar as is reasonable to confirm or dispel their reasonable suspicions.

The specific factual holding in Terry was as follows:

We conclude that the revolver seized from Terry was properly admitted in evidence against him. At the time he seized petitioner and searched him for weapons, Officer McFadden had reasonable grounds to believe that petitioner was armed and dangerous, and it was necessary for the protection of himself and others to take swift measures to discover the true facts and neutralize the threat of harm if it materialized. The policeman carefully restricted his search to what was appropriate to the discovery of the particular items which he sought. ... We merely hold today that where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, where in the course of investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and where nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others' safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others in the area to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him.
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