Home › Forums › U.S. Constitutional History › Reasonable Suspicion and Officer Pat Downs
- This topic has 3 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 10 years ago by ronigafni.
May 19, 2013 at 1:41 am #20682ronigafniMember
I have 2 questions rolled into one here.
1. In Terry vs. Ohio, the Supreme Court seems to have laid the groundwork for NYC’S stop and frisk, where I live. Do you think the reasonable suspicion standard is qualitatively different from probable cause with regard to the law respecting a person’s right to liberty and property.
2. Aside from State Nullification, is there that can be done when the Supreme Court makes a ruling against the constitution? The prevailing idea (by the media and public) seems to be that the Supreme Court has the final word on what is or is not legal under the constitution.May 20, 2013 at 2:18 am #20683usmcrp1127Member
Yes, there is a difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause. The courts deemed a pat down, or “Terry Frisk” (stemming from the name of the court case), less intrusive than a full on search. For an officer to pat somebody down, they have to have reasonable suspicion to believe the person is currently armed and dangerous. Since reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause, this doesn’t take “evidence” per se. There are numerous factors that can give an officer reason to pat someone down, but I do not think NYPD’s policy meets the standard.
A Terry Frisk is not supposed to involve reaching into pockets. It is a pat down of the person’s garments/body to ensure there is no weapon on them. For an officer to pull something out of a pocket, they have to be able to articulate that it felt like it could be a weapon. This is where it gets complicated as far as drugs/paraphernalia go. A glass pipe in someone’s pocket is hard, and the general size of a pocket knife. A baggy of weed does not feel like a weapon. However, courts have upheld officers pulling drugs out of pockets if the officer immediately recognizes the feel of (this is the only specific example I remember from training) a crack rock the way it slides between a plastic bag.
Probable cause is a higher standard, and what is needed for an arrest (different than a detention) or a search/arrest warrant. This requires actual evidence rather than reasonable suspicion.
I hope this helps. This is all based on the training/schooling I have been through at both the state and federal level of law enforcement.
As for the second question, I think that is best left up to Mr. Woods and his staff!May 20, 2013 at 2:26 am #20684usmcrp1127Member
If you haven’t read Terry vs Ohio, the officer saw two men outside of a store that appeared to be casing the place for a robbery. They had been taking turns walking in front of a store and looking in the window. They were doing this repeatedly, and talking in between each run. A third man had shown up and left. The officer saw the three meet up down the street and approached them. He patted Terry down and found a gun in his jacket. He also found a gun in one of the other men’s pocket as well.
The court deemed it reasonable for the officer to suspect the robbery and pat them down.
NYPD’s policy seems to me to be just patting people down for being present in certain areas. I don’t find that reasonable at all. Courts have supported officers who pat down people after they put their hands in their pockets after an officer has asked them to take them out of the pockets. That is understandable, but a pat down just for being somewhere (TSA?) is not.May 21, 2013 at 2:11 am #20685ronigafniMember
Wow, that was really great stuff, thanks!
I am also very interested in an answer from the Professors as to whether or not reasonable suspicion is offensive to the Natural Law and individual liberty as well as the answer to my second question.
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