Terry v. Ohio Legal Case Brief
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In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the Supreme Court created an exception to probable cause doctrine by allowing police to engage in the practice of temporarily detaining individuals for investigative stops and allowing protective frisking of individuals under limited circumstances.
Terry v. Ohio is significant for police procedure in light of the following:
- Terry v Ohio relies on the reasonableness aspect of the search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment.
- Police do not have to obtain a warrant based on probable cause when it would be unreasonable to do so.
- Police can stop and briefly interrogate an individual based on reasonable suspicion.
- Police officers can conduct a frisk to protect themselves when they have reasonable suspicion that an individual is armed and presently dangerous.
- The Terry decision also establishes a balancing standard for determining whether police action is reasonable.
If the government interest in the police taking swift action to detect and prevent crime outweighs the slight intrusion on privacy from the stop and frisk. The court will consider the balancing test based on the totality of the circumstances. The police officer, however, must have specific facts that lead a rational individual to draw the conclusion that the activity of the individual is suspicious. The court will interpret these facts according to the experience and training of a police officer, with the facts provided by an experienced police officer given greater weight than the facts provided by a novice police officer. This expansion of police authorities to make brief non-custodial interrogations and to frisk individuals is a good expansion of police authority. As the Terry decision noted, the intrusion into privacy is minor while the benefit for suppressing crime is significant.
The primary constitutional issue in Terry v. Ohio was whether the activities of police in the context of a stop and frisk was a violation of the Fourth Amendment that would prevent the introduction of any evidence seized in such activity at trail by operation of the exclusionary rule. While the Constitution itself provides protection against unreasonable search and seizure, it offers no guidance as to the remedy that should be employed when a police official or other representative of the government oversteps the boundaries delineated in the constitution. In addition, the Constitution itself offers no guidance as to the standards that should be employed when determining if there has been a violation of constitutional principles, which have led the courts to develop standards.