Stop and Frisk
The U.S. Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers may briefly detain (stop) and question a person based upon reasonable suspicion that he or she is involved in criminal activity. This is known as a Terry stop. See Terry v. Ohio.
Reasonable suspicion, short of probable cause for arrest, depends on the totality of the circumstances. Terry stops are heavily fact determinative that must be examined in each individual case. During a Terry stop, police may conduct a limited search of a suspect’s outer clothing (pat down – Frisk) for weapons if they have reasonable and “articulable suspicion” that the person detained is “armed and dangerous.” The procedure is known as a “stop and frisk.” The policy behind it is officer safety.
One of the many problems judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and law enforcement have with Terry stops is the very definition of what is ’“articulable suspicion.” It’s certainly not self-defining. Because of the lack of clear guidance, confusion in its application is commonplace. We try to resolve this confusion through the totality of the circumstances test. Under this analysis, the court will determine if the officer had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the person of criminal activity. [Continue reading]