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Monday, January 26, 2009

Arizona v. Johnson: Search of Auto Passenger Just Like Terry

In the context of a vehicular stop for a minor traffic infraction, may an officer conduct a pat-down search of a passenger when the officer has an articulable basis to believe the passenger might be armed and presently dangerous, but has no reasonable grounds to believe that the passenger is committing, or has committed, a criminal offense? The Supreme Court held that: (1) the first condition of Terry v. Ohio, i.e. a lawful investigatory stop, is met whenever it is lawful for police to detain an automobile and its occupants pending inquiry into a vehicular violation; (2) police need not have, in addition, cause to believe any occupant of the vehicle is involved in criminal activity; and (3) to justify a pat-down of the driver or a passenger during a traffic stop, however, just as in the case of a pedestrian reasonably suspected of criminal activity, the police must harbor reasonable suspicion that the person subjected to the frisk is armed and dangerous