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Police Search Without Warrant


In the case of Terry v. Ohio in 1968, detective Martin McFadden was patrolling around his neighborhood one afternoon. After watching two men he’d never seen before, he observed these men pace back and forth in front of the same store over 24 times. When the detective saw the two men talking to each other after each pass by the store, McFadden approached the two suspects, asking them to identify themselves. The suspects began whispering so McFadden immediately patted the suspects down and found that they both had guns.

This case went up to the Supreme Court and the Court decided that McFadden’s warrantless search on the two men was appropriate. The Supreme Court said that police have the right to stop and question a person if they have what the Court would call reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in suspicious behavior. In other words, the police may search someone even without probable cause, which is the legal standard that allows police officers to make an arrest, search an individual, personal property, or to receive a warrant to make an arrest.

The Reasonable Suspicion standard has lessened our freedom as Americans. This standard allows police officers to search for any person if they have the slightest sense that the person may be dangerous. This standard limits our freedom because the police no longer need a warrant from a judge or any kind of physical proof to search for someone. This Court decision would be upsetting to anyone who doesn’t want their privacy violated by the police.

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