Terry v. Ohio Case Brief

Facts of the case

Terry and two other men were observed by a plain clothes policeman in what the officer believed to be casing a job, a stick-up.The officer stopped and frisked the three men, and found weapons on two of them. Terry was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and sentenced to three years in jail.

Why is the case important?

The Petitioner, John W. Terry (the “Petitioner”), was stopped and searched by an officer after the officer observed the Petitioner seemingly casing a store for a potential robbery. The officer approached the Petitioner for questioning and decided to search him first.


Whether a search for weapons without probable cause for arrest is an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Constitution)?


The Supreme Court of the United States (“Supreme Court”) held that it is a reasonable search when an officer performs a quick seizure and a limited search for weapons on a person that the officer reasonably believes could be armed. A typical beat officer would be unduly burdened by being prohibited from searching individuals that the officer suspects to be armed.


The court affirmed petitioner’s conviction. The court ruled that despite the fact that the arresting police officer lacked probable cause to arrest petitioner at the time he made the stop and friskwarrantless intrusion upon petitioner that produced the weapon at issue, the search satisfied the conditions of U.S. Const. amend. IV : the officer had a reasonable suspicion, based upon his experience, that petitioner and his companions were about to commit a daytime robbery, and his belief that petitioner was presently armed, dangerous, and posed a threat to him and to others justified both the officer’s stopof petitioner and the frisk,or pat-down, of petitioner’s overcoat. Furthermore, the court ruled that the search of the outer clothing of petitioner and his companions was properly limited in time and scope in order for him to determine the presence of weapons and to neutralize the danger posed.

  • Advocates: –
  • Petitioner: Terry
  • Respondent: Ohio
  • DECIDED BY:Warren Court
  • Location: Street Corner
Citation: 392 US 1 (1968)
Argued: Dec 12, 1967
Decided: Jun 10, 1968
Terry v. Ohio Case Brief