Search and Seizure

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Karmen Lanman

Unit 2 Assignment

Kaplan University
Did Officer Smith have reasonable suspicion to make the initial stop of the vehicle? Well the definition of reasonable suspicion is: it’s the legal

standard of proof in the United States that is less than probable cause but more

than an “inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch”. Basically, when an

officer has a reasonable suspicion, it means that the facts or circumstances

would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has or is about to be

committed. Officer Smith did have a reason to pull over the vehicle. She believed

that the taillight was broken and covered with colored tape. It’s a simple traffic

stop which she did have reason to do. For a traffic stop you really don’t need all

that much to go on, you just need to see the person committing a simple traffic

violation or see that their vehicle is impaired in any way in order to pull them

over. So yes Officer Smith did have reasonable suspicion to pull the car over in

the first place.

1. Was the “pat-down” of the driver legal? “Stop and frisk” was discussed in

the case of Terry v Ohio from 1968. In the case an experienced plain clothes

officer observed 3 men acting suspiciously in front of a store. The officer

concluded that they were casing the store, preparing to rob it so he approached

them. He identified himself as a police officer and asked for their names. He was

not satisfied with their answers, so he subjected one of the men to a search. He

patted down the man’s clothing in which he felt a gun and one was removed from

the man’s clothing for which he had no permit. The defendants ended up arguing

that the search violated their Fourth Amendment rights because it was not

supported by probable cause. The court sided with the Officer saying that stops

and frisks are less intrusive than full blown searches. It also stated that officers

need to have some leeway before full probable cause is reached. So in the case

of Officer Smith, she believed that this could have been the car that was recently

used in the roadside killing of a fellow police officer. It matched the description of

the car so that’s why she had reasonable suspicion. Now if the car had not

matched the description she would not have had reasonable suspicion to believe

that the person had a weapon and could not have done a pat down unless she

saw a weapon in plain view when coming up to the car.

2. Did exigent circumstances exist for Officer Smith to give chase to the vehicle? The definition of exigent circumstances is: Those circumstances

that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry was necessary to

prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant

evidence, the escape of the suspect, or some other consequence improperly

frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts. Officer Smith had already patted

down the suspect and had not found any weapons but was still not sure if this

was the car and suspect who had killed the fellow police officer. So when the car

drove off at high speeds, the Officer did have reason to chase the vehicle. They

had not been cleared as a suspect yet so according to the definition of exigent

circumstances it covers escape of a suspect. She did not want the suspect to get

away so she did have reason to follow the car.

3. Was the gun in “plain view” and legally obtained? Plain view is when an

officer may make a search and seizure without a warrant if evidence of criminal

activity or the product of a crime can be seen without entry or search. Officer

Smith simply went to the suspect’s car to retrieve her purse for the purposes of

identification. When she got to the car the glove box was already open and that’s

when she noticed the gun underneath some documents. Although I’m not really

sure if the gun was in plain view if...
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