Terry V. Ohio
Southwest Tennessee Community College- Macon Campus
CRMJ 1010 – Introduction to Criminal Justice
Instructor: Tony Barbarotto
Due: Wednesday, April 18th, 2018?
There have been countless momentous cases in the United States that have set examples over cases and really affected how we look at certain Amendments. One such case is Terry vs. Ohio. In this Supreme Court case a detective by the name of McFadden was patrolling a part of town that had been a routine area he patrolled for years. On October 31, 1963 in Cleveland Ohio, officer McFadden saw two individuals one of them Terry, hanging out around a street corner. The officer had never observed the two men in that area before, with his thirty-five years of experience as a police officer, he knew something wasn’t right. In his opinion, he believed these men were not where they needed to be. Due to this, the officer began to investigate from a good distance away. He observed one of the men leaving the corner and began to walk past several stores. The man was suspiciously looking into store windows, and continued walking. He noticed a third man come into the picture when the individual met up with them and the other two started communicating with him. After a brief exchange, all three men began looking inside the same stores and were communicating with each other. The officer then followed them until they met back up with the third man in front of one store. Officer McFadden proceeded to stop these three men, because he suspected them of casing the store. He immediately let them know that he was a police officer and requested that they give up their names. The men were not very willing to respond, they mumbled in response to the officer’s questions. This created much worry for the officer because they were not making sense. McFadden turned Terry around and began to do a pat down of his outside clothing. During the pat down, officer McFadden found a pistol in Terry’s coat, but was incapable of removing it. As soon as, officer McFadden noticed it, he ordered the three men into the store. Once he removed Terry’s coat he took out the pistol and noticed it to be a revolver. He then ordered the men to face the wall. He patted down another man and found another revolver but never found any weapons on the third man. Once the officer found the weapons on the two suspects, this gave him probable cause to fully search those individuals for any other contraband. He then called for backup and took all three men into custody. Terry, along with the other man whom had a weapon, were to be charged with carrying a concealed weapon (Oyez).
Once at trial, officer McFadden stated he thought the men may have been armed and were about to commit a crime. An Ohio trial court convicted Terry with carrying a concealed weapon and sentenced him to one to three years. The defense filed a pre-trial motion to have the evidence dismissed because any evidence found illegally would not be allowed but the motion was denied. Terry appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States by stating “May a police officer detain an individual on the street absent probable cause and conduct a limited search to find weapons” (Lerner)? Rule of Law or Legal Principle is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by decisions of individual government officials. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behavior, including behavior of government officials (Benditt). So yes it applied so, he was allowed to. Officers are allowed to complete searches for weapons when they detect uncommon conduct leading them to rationally suspect illegal activity is occurring, and the individual involved is armed.
The Amendment that applies to this case is the Fourth Amendment, this Amendment is found in the Bill of Rights and it states ” The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be voided, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath and affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” (Kessler). Terry tried to argue that his fourth amendment right, which defends him of unreasonable searches and seizures, was violated. He said that the officer had no reasonable distrust of him and shouldn’t have searched him, which meant that the exclusionary rule should come into effect. Terry began to appeal but his appeals were denied every time even up to the Supreme Court. In an eight to one decision, the Court stated that the search by the officer was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that the pistols that were detained could be presented into evidence against Terry (Terry v. Ohio. (2006). 280-282.). Trying to emphasis on the realities of this case, the Court found that the officer acted on more than a premonition” and that a sensibly wise man would have been warranted in believing that Terry was carrying weapons and therefore offered a threat to the officer’s wellbeing, while officer McFadden was examining the suspicious behavior. The Court found that the searches undertaken were limited and designed to protect the officer’s safety. Because of the way he investigated, the courts stated that the officer acted under realistic suspicion and completed an outside frisk of the individuals clothing and then came into contact with the guns. They also stated that he was not searching for evidence but rather he was searching the individuals for his own safety as well as the safety of others. The court informed Terry that even the exclusionary rule has restrictions. This rule is to protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures aimed at collecting evidence, not searches and seizures for other purposes like stoppage of crimes as well as, personal protection of officers and everyone in the public (LaFave). The courts ruled that the Fourth Amendment was not violated because he had reasonable feeling that a crime was occurring or was about to occur in this case a robbery. This case set many guides in cases and is now known in today’s law.
The outcome of this case causes repercussions that are not obvious to some. A police officer now has the right to detain and search any individual, without a warrant, or even probable cause, as long as he or she can justify a suspicion that the individual may be armed. Also, anything the officer feels during that pat down may then be used as probable cause, allowing the officer to complete a full search. Since Terry v Ohio, other cases have come before the Supreme Court that have extended the power of the “stop and frisk”, extending that power to searching cars. This is known in today’s investigations as A Terry Stop. This is when the police can stop, question, and frisk someone they feel is acting deviously. This is not the same as an arrest because it is restricted in relations of both the period the police can interact with an individual and what they talk about. A Terry Stop can create an arrest if there is enough evidence that a crime is found. Many people feel like Terry Stops should not be legalized. The reason why they feel this way is because they say it can lead to racial profiling by the police officers. There have been studies that have shown that a major problem with Terry Stops is that it leads to conflict between minorities and the police. People say the biggest problem with the Terry Stop law is that there is no way to physically examine the psychological impact a person endures during the process of being stopped and frisked by the police in public. Personally, I feel there will always be individuals that will argue for or against Terry stops. A study in Cincinnati found that African Americans drivers had longer stops and higher search rates than white drivers. However, when the researchers matched stops involving African American drivers with white drivers in the same situation, found no differences. Their conclusion was that differences in the time, place, and context of the stops were the cause of the longer stops and higher search rates (Schell). The reasonable thing to do if a police officer does a terry stop on you is to, do what they ask of you and move on with your day. When it comes to legal action from the police department it is tough to get because Terry stops are legal and not only that it is hard to prove racial profiling even with the overwhelming statistics.
To sum it up, Terry V. Ohio has been one of the most controversial cases known in the history of the United States. Many people feel that Terry’s treatment was unjustified due to the fact the officer did not have a warrant to search him. Some might say that police have more control over these kinds of investigations now but what kind of impact does that have on the everyday citizen? For me personally, I do feel that officer McFadden’s actions were justified. He acted professionally and followed the rules and procedures that were given to him for this kind of scenario. Although it is not a good idea to always profile someone, sometimes it is needed in order to prevent criminal activity. Officer McFadden was doing just that. If he had ignored the actions of these three individuals and just went on with his normal shift, those three men could have easily committed a robbery and even killed someone. I am well aware that people are entitled to their own opinion and might find this case as a way for governmental control, but, for me when I think of this case I try to put myself in that officer’s shoes. I would like to say that I would have done the exact same thing he did. When you put this case in today’s perspective, Terry was locked up for carrying a concealed firearm. We have concealed carry permits for that very reason. If Terry and the other two men were not acting suspicious maybe the officer would have just let them be. If Terry and the other two men were acting out this situation, all they would have needed to do was introduce themselves like officer McFadden had asked and presented their concealed carry permit. If their story added up and they weren’t actually trying to commit a criminal act, then more than likely he would have just let them go. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is full of one sided mindsets; it is like nobody is willing to look at the facts. People are quick to assume that whenever there are police involved, those police are always out to get you for their own personal gain. The gain I am referring to is the idea of having total control. Personally, I believe that isn’t true. Police officers have a very stressful job, they are constantly putting their lives on the line for the safety and well being of the citizens they protect. Why should we hate on an individual for doing their job? ?
Terry v. Ohio. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1967/67
Lerner, Craig S. (2006). Reasonable suspicion and mere hunches. Vanderbilt Law Review, 59(2), 405-473.
LaFave, W. (2009). Terry v. Ohio. The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions,
T Patrick, J., Pious, R., & Ritchie, D. (1993). Terry v. Ohio. The Oxford Guide to the United States Government, The Oxford Guide to the United States Government.he Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions.
Benditt, T. (1978). Law as Rule and Principle : Problems of Legal Philosophy.
Kessler, J. (2010). The Fourth Amendment : Select issues and cases (EBSCO eBooks). Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science.
“Terry v. Ohio.” 2006, pp. 280–282.
Schell, Terry L., Greg Ridgeway, Travis L. Dixon, Susan Turner, and K. Jack Riley, Police-Community Relations in Cincinnati: Year Three Evaluation Report Exit Notice, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2007.