Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 8 (1993)

Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Cite as: 508 U. S. 366 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

recognized in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1 (1968), which held that "where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot . . . ," the officer may briefly stop the suspicious person and make "reasonable inquiries" aimed at confirming or dispelling his suspicions. Id., at 30; see also Adams v. Williams, 407 U. S. 143, 145- 146 (1972).

Terry further held that "[w]hen an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently dangerous to the officer or to others," the officer may conduct a patdown search "to determine whether the person is in fact carrying a weapon." 392 U. S., at 24. "The purpose of this limited search is not to discover evidence of crime, but to allow the officer to pursue his investigation without fear of violence . . . ." Adams, supra, at 146. Rather, a protective search—permitted without a warrant and on the basis of reasonable suspicion less than probable cause—must be strictly "limited to that which is necessary for the discovery of weapons which might be used to harm the officer or others nearby." Terry, supra, at 26; see also Michigan v. Long, 463 U. S. 1032, 1049, and 1052, n. 16 (1983); Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U. S. 85, 93-94 (1979). If the protective search goes beyond what is necessary to determine if the suspect is armed, it is no longer valid under Terry and its fruits will be suppressed. Sibron v. New York, 392 U. S. 40, 65-66 (1968).

These principles were settled 25 years ago when, on the same day, the Court announced its decisions in Terry and Sibron. The question presented today is whether police officers may seize nonthreatening contraband detected during a protective patdown search of the sort permitted by Terry. We think the answer is clearly that they may, so long as the officers' search stays within the bounds marked by Terry.


Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007