U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Police Intervention Short of Arrest

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 75 Issue: 11 Dated: November 2006 Pages: 26-32
Michael J. Bulzomi J.D.
Date Published
November 2006
7 pages
This article discusses the conditions under which police officers can conduct an investigative detention based on reasonable suspension, which does not rise to the level of an arrest.
In Terry v. Ohio (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a police officer may detain or seize a person on the street in order to investigate possible criminal activity based on reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is imminent or has occurred. The court allowed a limited search of the detainee for weapons, based on reasonable suspicion that the person is armed. A "Terry" stop requires that an officer have specific facts that meet criteria for reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion can be based on the totality of circumstances observed by the officers, including the officer's knowledge, experience, and observations; the conduct or demeanor of the individual detained; the reputation of the area or the individual detained; and information from others. A "Terry" stop occurs when police officers briefly detain people through physical force or a show of authority, such that reasonable individuals would believe that they are not free to leave or terminate contact with the police. Limits may be crossed that cause the encounter to become more than a limited investigative detention, thus becoming the functional equivalent of an arrest. This article describes such a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kaupp v. Texas (2003), in which the Court provided some examples of circumstances that might turn an investigative detention into the functional equivalent of an arrest, such as the threatening presence of several officers, the physical touching of the person, and the use of language or tone of voice that indicates compliance with an officer's directions is not optional.