Clinton Wrong: Supreme Court Says ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Is Constitutional
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In 1968, the nation’s highest court faced exactly the same issue of short warrantless police encounters on the street in Terry v. Ohio.
In Terry, the Supreme Court held:
When 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, it would appear to be clearly unreasonable to deny the officer the power to take necessary measures to determine whether the person is in fact carrying a weapon and to neutralize the threat of physical harm.
For the sake of protecting the officer’s safety, and the safety of other people in the area, the Court concluded, the Fourth Amendment allows an officer “to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used against him.”
The lone dissenter in Terry, Justice William Douglas, wrote that the Fourth Amendment only allows a pat-down if the officer has probable cause to suspect a crime. All eight other justices—including archliberal Justice William Brennan—rejected that argument, in an opinion written by the most liberal chief justice the nation has ever had, Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Constitutional scholars know that 1968 was the most liberal year in the more than two centuries of the Supreme Court’s existence. Even the most liberal Supreme Court in American history rejected Clinton’s position by an 8-1 margin. But that’s exactly the position of Clinton and de Blasio.