The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. It also states that no warrants shall be issued without a probable cause. Modern jurisprudence has afforded police officers an incentive to respect the amendment. The Stop and Frisk law allows police officers to stop someone and do a quick search of their outer clothes for weapons if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has or is about to take place and the person stopped is armed or dangerous.
The reasonable suspicion must be based with specific articulable facts and not on just an officer’s hunch. The Stop and Frisk law balances crime control, protects an individual’s right, and prevents unreasonable searches. 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 seized (Lehman 471-476).
This amendment can be broken into 2 distinct parts the reasonableness clause and the warrant clause. In the beginning, the U. S. Supreme Court adopted the conventional Fourth Amendment approach, which says the warrant and reasonableness clauses are firmly connected. The reasonableness clause protects the people’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The reasonable clause has to pass the reasonableness test, which consists of two elements that the government has to prove; balancing element and objective basis.
The balancing element is the need to search and/or seize outweighs the invasion of liberty and privacy rights of the individuals. The objective basis is when there are enough facts to back up the search and/or seizure. The warrant clauses states that only warrants and probable cause are reasonable. It was not until the 1960’s when the Supreme Court shifted from the conventional approach to the reasonableness Fourth Amendment approach. It states that the 2 clauses are separate, and address separate problems.
The warrant clause tells us what the Fourth Amendment requires only when law nforcement officers want to obtain warrants. Since a small percentage of searches and seizures are made with warrants and many searches and seizures don’t require probable cause either, the warrant clause isn’t very important. Today’s stop and frisk law grow out of the practical problems police officers face in preventing and investigating crime on the streets and other public places in our largest cities. In investigations, officers are usually dealing with people they don’t know or probably won’t ever see again.
Usually these stranger’s suspicious behavior doesn’t add up to the probable cause needed to arrest them. An example would be that officers don’t have enough facts and circumstances viewed through their professional experience and training to arrest two men, who peer into a store window, look around to see if anyone’s watching them and pace up and down repeating the pattern for 10 minutes. What should the officers do at this point? Keep watching? Do nothing about the situation? Detain the men and pat the down for weapons?
Take them to the police station? These issues were raised in the famous Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968) case. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court which ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures on unreasonable searches and seizures was not violated when a police officer stopped a suspect on the street and search him without probable cause.
On October 31, 1963, a Cleveland police detective named Martin McFadden saw two men, John W. Terry and Richard Chilton, standing on a street corner looking suspicious. One would walk by a certain store window, stare in, and walk back to the other to confer. This was repeated several times, and the detective believed that they were plotting to do a store robbery. The officer approached the men and addressed himself as a policeman, and asked their names. When the men appeared suspicious in their answers, Officer McFadden patted them down and discovered that both men were armed. He proceeded to remove their guns and arrested them for carrying concealed weapons.
Terry was sentenced to three years in prison. Terry appealed the case, claiming that the guns found should be inadmissible as evidence since his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, where it was it was ruled that his rights had not been violated. In an 8-to-1 decision, the Court held that the search undertaken by the officer was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that the weapons seized could be introduced into evidence against Terry.
The Court found that the officer acted on more than a “hunch” and that “a reasonably prudent man would have been warranted in believing Terry was armed and thus presented a threat to the officer’s safety while he was investigating his suspicious behavior. ” The Court found that the searches undertaken were limited in scope and designed to protect the officer’s safety incident to the investigation. In reference to the Fourth Amendment searches and seizures, officers need to prove fewer suspicions facts and circumstances to back up stops and frisks than they do arrests and full-blown searches.
Stops and frisks represents the beginning of a chronological path through the criminal process from more frequent and more visible searches and seizures in public to more intrusive searches and seizures out of sight in police stations. Stop and frisks aren’t just fine points for constitutional lawyers and courts to debate. They also reflect broad public policies aimed at balancing the values of crime control and individual liberty and privacy.
Since stop and frisks take place in public, the display of police power is there for everybody to see. Because of this visibility, stops and frisks probably shape public opinion of police power more than the greater invasions of arrest and searches that we never see. Deciding which is more important in a constitutional democracy – crime control by means of less intrusive public stops and frisks affecting more people or often invisible arrests and searches affecting fewer people – is both a constitutional and public policy question.
The key facts are: 1) Officers are going to stop many people who haven’t done anything wrong; and they’ll frisk lots of people who aren’t armed. 2) Most of the same people want police protection and (at least in high-crime neighborhoods) need it more than people who live in safe neighborhoods. 3) Both lawbreakers and law abiders in high-street-crime neighborhoods from lasting opinions about the police from street encounters they’ve watched or experienced.
Courtney from Study Moose
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