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The Terry vs. State Of Ohio case gave a landmark ruling that defined how the fourth amendment affected unreasonable searches and seizures in America. The case involved a police officer who searched and arrested John Terry (the petitioner) for having a concealed weapon. The arresting officer did so after noticing the petitioner pacing along a street, suspiciously.
At the time of the arrest, Terry was with an acquaintance. They occasionally peeped through a store window and conversed in low tones. When the two men followed a man they had talked to, the officer walked up to them and searched for a concealed weapon. He believed they intended to commit a crime. The search showed that one of them had a weapon. The officer charged him for this crime.
Since the arresting officer searched the petitioner without probable cause, it was important to understand if the fourth amendment protected the suspect from an unwarranted search and seizure. Therefore, the main issue in the case involved understanding if a search for weapons without probable cause was unlawful, or not.
Majority View: The US Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff by saying reasonable searches were lawful if officers believed that a person was armed (Martinez, 2014). The Court believed that denying officers the right to search suspects would burden their work and compromise their security, or that of the suspects they want to protect.
Dissent: Justice William Douglas did not support unwarranted stop and searches (without probable cause) because he believed giving this power to police officers would be excessively empowering them. He argued that even magistrates did not enjoy this privilege. Therefore, he believed officer empowerment was tantamount to totalitarianism.
First Concurrence: Justice John Harlan supported the majority view. However, he highlighted the need to have conditional searches. He said it was important for officers to have reasonable cause to stop and search people (Martinez, 2014).
Second Concurrence: Justice Byron White similarly supported the majority view, but he equally highlighted the need to have conditional searches. He said searches should only occur if the officers believed the persons were potentially violent (Martinez, 2014).
The above case shaped how the American police conducted searches on suspected criminals. Since violence could have occurred if the arresting officer did not act, how he did, the safety of both the officer and the targeted victim took center-stage in the proceedings. Based on this focus, the judges had to make sure they protected the safety of all parties (officers, suspects and potential victims). Although the court ruled against the plaintiff, it recognized the need to respect the suspect’s right.
In this regard, it required police officers to act with integrity when conducting searches. Comparatively, Saint Leo’s Core Value of Integrity requires honesty and consistency in how people relate within the institution (particularly regarding how employees and students undertake their duties). The Terry vs. State Of Ohio case underscores the principles of this value. Concisely, the case involved a petitioner who believed a police officer did not undertake his duties diligently.
Since the police service requires all its officers to practice high standards of integrity, the Supreme Court had to mediate this case and, as shown above, found out that the officer acted within the law. As Saint Leo’s core values stipulate, integrity should guide how people undertake their duties.
Martinez, M. (2014). The Greatest Criminal Cases: Changing the Course of American Law. New York, NY: ABC-CLIO.