Terry v. Ohio

Why is the case important?

Terry v. Ohio Brief The central themes of this case are “Terry stop-and-frisk”, searches and seizures, the right to privacy included in the Fourth Amendment, the exclusionary rule, and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (as the basis for the exclusionary rule).


The officer noticed the Petitioner talking with another individual on a street corner while repeatedly walking up and down the same street. The men would periodically peer into a store window and then talk some more. The men also spoke to a third man whom they eventually followed up the street. The officer believed that the Petitioner and the other men were “casing” a store for a potential robbery. The officer decided to approach the men for questioning, and given the nature of the behavior the officer decided to perform a quick search of the men before questioning. A quick frisking of the Petitioner produced a concealed weapon and the Petitioner was charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

Key Players

1 Appellants : John Terry, who was frisked by police and whose gun was seized during that search.
2 Appellees : The state of Ohio and the local Cleveland police force who conducted a search and seizure of Terry’s person and his property.


Was the search and seizure of Terry and the other men in violation of the Fourth Amendment?


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. Attempting to focus narrowly on the facts of this particular case, 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.

What was the effect of the supreme court case Terry v. Ohio?


The facts of the case are important to understand the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow the search. The suspicious activity was a violent crime, armed robbery, and if the officer’s suspicions were correct then he would be in a dangerous position to approach the men for questioning without searching them. The officer also did not detain the men for a long period of time to constitute an arrest without probable cause. Terry v. Ohio Summary The Supreme Court ruled in favor of The state of Ohio and The Cleveland police, who conducted a “stop-and-frisk” of a suspect named Terry. The Court held that The limited search that occurred in this case was an unconstitutional violation of The Fourth Amendment right to privacy because The “stop” was conducted with reasonable suspicion that The suspect was involved in criminal activities and The “frisk” was conducted with reasonable cause to believe that The suspect was armed and required a protective pat-down ( The Fourth Amendment right to privacy governs The execution of “searches and seizures”). The Court’s holding distinguished a “stop-and-frisk” from a “search incident to a lawful arrest”, noting that a “search incident to a lawful arrest” which would require The elevated standard of probable cause to conduct an arrest—a form of seizure.

Street Corner
Warren Court
392 US 1 (1968)
Dec 12, 1967
Jun 10, 1968