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Thread: Terry v. Ohio Question

  1. #1
    Regular Member
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    Feb 2007
    Virginia, USA

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    So, after reading several opinions on Terry v. Ohio, it explained that McFadden was lawful in his "frisking" believing that the suspects were armed. However, I've not actually seen anything articulated that would have given McFadden factual reasonable suspicion that the suspects were, indeed, armed. So, on what basis did the courts find that McFadden's "frisk" was lawful?

    Was it purely on the position of "officer safety"? If so, I think it's a crock. From what I have read, McFadden had not reason to believe that Terry was armed. He only observed suspicious behavior.

    Was the search lawful based on the fact the McFadden felt that the suspicious activity was an indicator of a crime about to happen?

    What happens if I work for a retailer who does not employ or contract with an armored truck service to make deposits of large amounts of cash and I send a couple employees to deposit this large sum of cash at the bank and they act in a similar manner as Terry and his co-horts and bring suspsicion upon themselves simply because they see someone whom they feel is suspicious themselves in a retailer along the way?

    You know what I'm saying? Am I comparing apples and orange here or would an observing officer have the authority to detain based on their observation of this activity, even though it would be lawful?

    ETA: Where is John Terry today? Anybody know? WOuld be interesting to know how things turned out for him, even though we know he was sentenced to prison for a short stint.

  2. #2
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    May 2006
    Northern VA, Virginia, USA

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    Basically the Court found that because the officer had reasonable suspicion to suspect that Terry was planning a robbery, he would also have reasonable suspicion to suspect that Terry was armed. The Court believed that a reasonable person would suspect that a person about to commit a robbery would indeed be armed.

    Thus articulate reasonable suspicion that Terry is about to rob the store in broad daylight, a violent crime against a person, equals articulate reasonable suspicion that Terry is also armed.

    See the following excerpt from the majority opinion starting at the end of page 27:

    Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)
    We must now examine the conduct of Officer McFadden in this case to determine whether his search and seizure of petitioner were reasonable, both at their inception [p28] and as conducted. He had observed Terry, together with Chilton and another man, acting in a manner he took to be preface to a "stick-up." We think, on the facts and circumstances Officer McFadden detailed before the trial judge, a reasonably prudent man would have been warranted in believing petitioner was armed, and thus presented a threat to the officer's safety while he was investigating his suspicious behavior. The actions of Terry and Chilton were consistent with McFadden's hypothesis that these men were contemplating a daylight robbery -- which, it is reasonable to assume, would be likely to involve the use of weapons -- and nothing in their conduct from the time he first noticed them until the time he confronted them and identified himself as a police officer gave him sufficient reason to negate that hypothesis. Although the trio had departed the original scene, there was nothing to indicate abandonment of an intent to commit a robbery at some point. Thus, when Officer McFadden approached the three men gathered before the display window at Zucker's store, he had observed enough to make it quite reasonable to fear that they were armed, and nothing in their response to his hailing them, identifying himself as a police officer, and asking their names served to dispel that reasonable belief. We cannot say his decision at that point to seize Terry and pat his clothing for weapons was the product of a volatile or inventive imagination, or was undertaken simply as an act of harassment; the record evidences the tempered act of a policeman who, in the course of an investigation, had to make a quick decision as to how to protect himself and others from possible danger, and took limited steps to do so.
    I hope that helps!

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