Facts of the Case
An police officer by the name of Mcfadden observed two men standing at a street corner. He noticed that the two men would take turns on looking inside of the window store. This happenedd about twenty four times and each time they did it the two men would have a conversation. After a while a third guy had joined the duo and then left. After the detective witnessed that action he had suspected that they were casing the store to burglarize the store. So he goes up to the suspects and identify himself. He questioned the suspects and got back a mumbled response. Detective Mcfadden subsequently pat down the suspects, removing their overcoats and discovered a pistol which he seized from them. Later on they were charged with carrying concealed weapons. Procedural History
The pretrial motion was to suppress the two pistols that was taken from Terry under the exclusionary rule and it was denied. The trial court had stated that the officer had “reasonable cause to believe that the defendants were conducting themselves suspiciously”. This led the court to find the suspects guilty of these charges. Issue
The legal issue of this case is whether or not the detective was unreasonable search and seize a persons’ belongings without probable cause for an arrest. Petitioner’s Argument
The petitioner’s argument was that Detective Mcfadden had violated the fourth amendment of the suspects by stopping them and frisking them without any probable cause.
The respondent’s felt that the weapon was rightfully seized after a lawful arrest in a justifiable search. Holding
The court decided that the police may stop and frisk a suspect for any weapons if they just have a reasonable suspicion. They do not need a probable cause to arrest the suspects and any weapons that were discovered during these arrests may be used as evidence in court.
According to Chief Justice Warren the fourth amendment protects individiuals from unreasonable searches but does not protect them from acting in a suspicious manner. So due to the fact that the detective was on the job for thirty years and actually did not go inside the clothing of the suspects until after he felt to believe it was a weapon, this made the search and seizeure justifiable and lawful. Concurring and Dessenting opinions
The dessenting opinion was that this was infringing an individual’s liberty. The concurring opinion was that the officer can address and question anyone. A refusal of an answer does not give them the right to arrest the person but they do have the right to carry on with the observation.
In the book “Constitutional Fate Theory of the Constitution” Philip Bobbit had discused many constitutional arguments in regards to the cases that were addressed. There were six constitional arguments that Philip Bobbit mentioned which were historical, textual, doctrinal, prudential, structural and ethical argument. These arguments that Philip Bobbit discussed in the book can also be applied to the decision of the Terry v. Ohio case. According to the Terry v. Ohio, one of the arguments that was used to make this decision was the ethical argument. The decision was used based on the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” The court held that the Detective’s stop and frisk of the suspect was justifiable because all he needed was reasonable suspicion of a crime to happen. The fourth amendment says that probable cause is needed but the officer did not have any probable cause for his arrest. Basically the ethical argument helped the officer’s arrest. This would make sense because the officer used his judgment from his experience of thirty years, and the court recognize that a police officer do not need probable cause as long as the officer is acting in the best interest of his duties.
Another constitutional argument that was used that Philip Bobbitt explain in the book that can be applied to the Terry v. Ohio case was the historical argument. In regards to the dissenting opinion Justice Douglas stated that the infringement of an individual’s liberty is not reasonable if there is no probable cause. This relates to the fourth amendment because it only allows the police to arrest the suspect with probable cause. He felt that the framers of the constitution wanted to protect the people from the government. Justice Douglas felt that this decision might give all the power to the government and through the historical argument the framers wanted all the power to be of the people that is why the fourth amendment would protect them from unreasonable search and seizures. Also a prudential argument can be used in this dissenting opinion because Justice Douglas is suggesting that our legal system is basically going against the constitution. Based on his opinion he is saying that he is afraid that the U.S. Government is changing into totalitarianism because they would allow this case to go against Terry.
An ethical argument was used for Justice Harlan concurring opinion. In his opinion he states that the detective have the constitutional right to stop anyone with a reasonable suspicion. It does not say that in the fourth amendment but he feel that the detective should be protected because he recovered concealed weapons by his experienced ways. He feel that the weapons should be admissible in court and should be used against the suspect. Speaking of admissible evidence, the doctrinal argument can be used also. The court basically used the Mapp v. Ohio case as precedent because it basically used the exclusionary rule and the right to privacy in favor of the defendant. Well in Terry v. Ohio they disregarded the exclusionary and the right to privacy (even though it is not actually in the constitution) the court feel that safety of society all around is more important than an individual’s right to privacy.