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Terry V. Ohio: A Dissenting Opinion

The Terry V. Ohio case defined an officer’s right to pat down an individual that he/she deems “suspicious.” This piece is a dissenting opinion on the case and supports why the civil rights of the individual in this case were violated by the officer’s intrusion.

The defendant’s actions did not justify an on-the-spot pat down of his person, violating his personal security. In this case, Terry was walking up the street and peering into a storefront window with two other companions. After repeating this act approximately 12 times, Officer Mcfadden approached Terry, and after a pat down found two weapons on two of the three individuals. Terry and his companion were charged with and convicted of carrying a concealed weapon. The issue of this case is whether, in all of the circumstances of this on-the-street encounter, Terry’s right to personal security was violated by an unreasonable search and seizure.

The only question in this case is whether Terry’s actions on the sidewalk justified a frisking of his person. Terry and his companions were merely walking back and forth on a city street looking into a store window. Nowhere in during this event does the prosecution establish that the defendant took an offensive action. This walking back and forth in front of the store could have very well been for a multitude of different, legal, reasons; such as he was waiting for someone and was getting nervous. If Terry had made any absolutely suspicious actions, then a pat down would have been justified. In this case, the defendant did nothing of the kind.

Finally, we must define if the defendant’s actions, although possible, were not probable to the committing of a crime. If an officer is going to protect them self, then they are allowed to act upon that fear. But while there may be a thought that of danger, the officer needs to have a firm ground on which to base his/ her fears. According to the fourth amendment, Citizens have the right “to be secure in their persons…against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and those rights should not be infringed upon by an officer’s unjustified “hunch”. In this case, Terry’s actions, though suspicious, did not break into the realm of criminal activity and did not justify an infringement upon civil rights.

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User Comments
  1. Lisa

    On March 20, 2008 at 8:57 am

    I think its horrible how everyone keeps bashing on this law. If people knew more of how it came about and they read the case, maybe they would understand better. If the police officer never stopped Terry and the other two, we would not know what they would have done. They had guns… The officer had the right and was concerned for the “public good”.

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