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Terry Stop - Permissible Use of Force

NCJ Number
Crime to Court: Police Officer's Handbook Dated: (June 1994) complete issue
J C Coleman
Date Published
23 pages
This handbook examines the application of the "Terry" stop in the case of United States v. Crittendon (883 F2d 326) and considers police procedure in the handling of an epileptic complex partial seizure.
The case of Terry v. Ohio is the seminal case handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which permits police to stop and question persons upon reasonable suspicion that the suspects might be engaged or about to be engaged in the commission of crime. The Court also held in "Terry" that police had the right, if they had reasonable suspicion that a suspect might be armed and dangerous, to conduct a pat- down search of the suspect for weapons. The issues considered in United States v. Crittendon were when an investigatory stop ripens into a full-blown arrest and how much force, if any, a police officer can use to detain a suspect until the investigation has been completed. Legal principles drawn from the Terry case and the subsequent Crittendon case are that police may make a stop of an individual for investigative purposes upon reasonable suspicion (based upon articulable facts) that criminal activity may be afoot. Further, an attempt to flee by a suspect upon being approached by officers can create reasonable suspicion to justify a Terry stop. A pat-down search for weapons is justified in a Terry stop if the officer has reason to believe that the suspect is armed and dangerous. The forcible temporary detention of a suspect in a Terry stop does not convert the detention into an arrest so long as the methods of restraint are reasonable in the circumstances. The circumstances of a Terry stop can in some cases support an officer's belief that a frisk for weapons is necessary. Some Federal courts of appeal have held or inferred that justification for possession of firearms can be a valid defense to a Federal charge of possession of firearms by a convicted felon. The first part of a two-part series on misinformation and misinformed attitudes by police officers toward persons under an epileptic seizure (complex partial seizure) identifies the symptoms of such seizures. Police procedures for dealing with persons having such symptoms are described.