Terry v. Ohio

Terry v. Ohio

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Terry v Ohio

Terry v. Ohio was a landmark decision made in the Supreme Court of the United States whereby the court ruled that it is not a defiance of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures for public members who the police officers stop for cross-examining and pat-down probe. The dominant themes of this case are searches and seizures, “Terry stop-and-frisk,” the exclusionary rule, the right to privacy included in the Fourth Amendment, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (as the foundation for the exclusionary rule). The case resulted from the action of a police detective known as Martin McFadden from Cleveland searching for an armed robbery. On the afternoon of October 31, 1963, McFadden showed a pat-down search on three men he presumed to have had plans to defraud a particular store. John Terry and Richard Chilton were the two men out of three who McFadden found to have carried pistols. As a result, they were tried and convicted for being found in possession of concealed weapons. The suspects moved to the court of Appeal, whereby they appealed that the police obtained the evidence used to convict them in an illegal frisking search. 

The Supreme Court of the United States argued Terry’s case in 1967. The Chief Justice by that time, known as Earl Warren, wrote the opinion of the majority that McFadden had the authority to conduct a pat-down search for weapons and drugs because the suspects were seen taking part in suspicious behavior that warranted inquiry by the police. According to him, the search did not break the Fourth Amendment, prohibiting unreasonable searches or seizures. The court rejected the argument that pat-down search was a pretty indignity to anyone subjected to it. The Supreme Court’s ruling favored the state of OHIO and the Cleveland police who conducted stop and frisk of a suspect named Terry. It held that the limited search that happened, in this case, was not a constitutional violation of the 4th Amendment right to privacy since the search was done with reasonable suspension that the suspect had taken part in criminal activities. On the other hand, the frisk was done with reasonable cause to believe that the suspect was armed and needed a protective pat-down. The court’s verdict distinguished a “search incident to a lawful arrest” from a “stop-and-frisk,” remarking that a “search incident to a lawful arrest” would need the raised standard of likely cause to conduct an arrest which is a form of seizure.

William O. Douglas being the only dissenter, took his independent stand and argued that the police were being provided with more legal authority to conduct searches by the court than a judge would issue a court order authorizing an investigation or a seizure. Douglas held his stand that police searches should remain under control or restricted by the standard threshold of probable cause. After making its ruling, the court did not create a separating category of police actions that did not meet the probable constitutional cause. The court investigation focused on whether the officer’s action was reasonable and justifiable other than McFadden disregarded Terry’s constitutional protections against unreasonable pat-down search. Stop, and frisk was regarded to detect concealed weapons and drugs on the person than collecting pieces of evidence for a crime committed or about to be executed. (Swartz, 2017).

The participants of this case were Justices Warren, Black, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Fortas, Marshall. These were the majority. The one who was dissenting was Justice Douglas. The petitioner was John Terry. This case’s decision was a ruling in favor of the appellees grounded on the court’s verdict that the law enforcement agency had sensible reason to be sure that Terry was carrying weapons. For the police to protect the citizens from Terry, he had the right to do a limited search of him for weapons. The Law court decided to state that the law enforcement agency had a right to “stop” him because they had a reasonable doubt of criminal activity and that they could, therefore, make “judicious investigations” on that basis. The court of law settled that such a limited and “reasonable” search was consistent with the Fourth Amendment right to privacy and that any private possessions grabbed during that search could suitably be used as evidence and must not be subject to the exclusionary rule.

This case has shaped criminal justice because the court considers pat-down searches for persons believed to have weapons constitutional since they do not disregard the Fourth Amendment on the ban for unreasonable searches and seizures. This case had great significance, and in the modern days, it provides guidance on cases similar to Terry v Ohio. In the modern days, the court can refer to this case when referring or when stuck in deciding on similar cases. Terry v. Ohio case determined the legality of stop-and-frisk whereby it established that police officers would stop passersby on the street and inspect them for illegal contraband. The Supreme Court established that the practice was lawful under the Fourth Amendment if the police show that he had a “reasonable suspicion” that the suspect was armed and dangerous. In the majority’s opinion, Terry’s conviction declaration shows transparency and integrity in the courts. The police have legitimate authority, which corresponds to criminal justice by ruling that public and questioning members’ stoppage does not defy the Fourth Amendment. Still, it serves as a detection method for concealed weapons, thus a crime prevention practice. (MacFarlane, 2018). There should be a drawn authority that allows reasonable search for munitions by police officers, once the suspect they are dealing with an armed and a dangerous person. And this acts as a crime prevention practice. It is not the aim of the police officer to specific an individual is armed.

    In summary, Terry was convicted even after appealing that an illegal search provided the proof used to convict him. The court ruled out that the police can stop an individual from interrogating and pat-down whenever they suspect him/her of being in possession of armed and dangerous weapons. It is constitutional because it does not violate the Fourth Amendment proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures. Thus, the court discovered that stop and frisk is a search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and certain conditions because it acts as a crime prevention practice. The court provided the police with more legal authority in reasonable search on persons suspected to be armed; to detect any concealed weapons. Hence it is a rule to allow valid search for weapons by police officers. Besides, the court ruled that the search of the petitioner’s outer clothing and his cohorts was appropriately limited in time and scope in order for him to determine the presence of weapons and neutralize the danger posed.


MacFarlane, K. (2018). Introduction: Terry v. Ohio at 50: The Past, Present, & Future of Stop and Frisk. Idaho Law Review, 54.

Parr, C. K. (2018). The Trimvirate’s Stranglehold on Our Constitutional Rights: The Loophole within Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist. The court, Terry v. Ohio, and Utah V. Strieff That Shields Police Misconduct. SUL Rev., 46, 80.

Stoughton, S. W. (2017). Terry v. Ohio and the (un) forgettable frisk. Ohio St. J. Crim. L., 15, 19.

Swartz, J. D. (2017). Terry v. Ohio at 50: What It Created, What It Has Meant, Is It under Attack and Is the Court Opening the Door to Police Misconduct. N. Ill. UL Rev., 38, 44.

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