Acting on a tip supplied moments earlier by an informant known
to him, a police officer asked respondent to open his car door.
Respondent lowered the window, and the officer reached into the car
and found a loaded handgun (which had not been visible from the
outside) in respondent's waistband, precisely where the informant
said it would be. Respondent was arrested for unlawful possession
of the handgun. A search incident to the arrest disclosed heroin on
respondent's person (as the informant had reported), as well as
other contraband in the car. Respondent's petition for federal
habeas corpus relief was denied by the District Court. The Court of
Appeals reversed, holding that the evidence that had been used in
the trial resulting in respondent's conviction had been obtained by
an unlawful search.
As Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S.
, recognizes, a policeman making a reasonable
investigatory stop may conduct a limited protective search for
concealed weapons when he has reason to believe that the suspect is
armed and dangerous. Here, the information from the informant had
enough indicia of reliability to justify the officer's forcible
stop of petitioner and the protective seizure of the weapon, which
afforded reasonable ground for the search incident to the arrest
that ensued. Pp. 407 U. S.
441 F.2d 394, reversed.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ.,
joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL,
J., joined, post,
p. 407 U. S. 149
BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post,
407 U. S. 151
MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS, J.,
p. 407 U. S.
Page 407 U. S. 144
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondent Robert Williams was convicted in a Connecticut state
court of illegal possession of a handgun found during a "stop and
frisk," as well as of possession of heroin that was found during a
full search incident to his weapons arrest. After respondent's
conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Connecticut, 157
Conn. 114, 249 A.2d 245 (1968), this Court denied certiorari. 395
U.S. 927 (1969). Williams' petition for federal habeas corpus
relief was denied by the District Court and by a divided panel of
the Second Circuit, 436 F.2d 30 (1970), but, on rehearing en banc,
the Court of Appeals granted relief. 441 F.2d 394 (1971). That
court held that evidence introduced at Williams' trial had been
obtained by an unlawful search of his person and car, and thus the
state court judgments of conviction should be set aside. Since we
conclude that the policeman's actions here conformed to the
standards this Court laid down in Terry v. Ohio,
392 U. S. 1
Police Sgt. John Connolly was alone early in the morning on car
patrol duty in a high-crime area of Bridgeport, Connecticut. At
approximately 2:15 a.m., a person known to Sgt. Connolly approached
Page 407 U. S. 145
and informed him that an individual seated in a nearby vehicle
was carrying narcotics and had a gun at his waist.
After calling for assistance on his car radio, Sgt. Connolly
approached the vehicle to investigate the informant's report.
Connolly tapped on the car window and asked the occupant, Robert
Williams, to open the door. When Williams rolled down the window
instead, the sergeant reached into the car and removed a fully
loaded revolver from Williams' waistband. The gun had not been
visible to Connolly from outside the car, but it was in precisely
the place indicated by the informant. Williams was then arrested by
Connolly for unlawful possession of the pistol. A search incident
to that arrest was conducted after other officers arrived. They
found substantial quantities of heroin on Williams' person and in
the car, and they found a machete and a second revolver hidden in
Respondent contends that the initial seizure of his pistol, upon
which rested the later search and seizure of other weapons and
narcotics, was not justified by the informant's tip to Sgt.
Connolly. He claims that, absent a more reliable informant or some
corroboration of the tip, the policeman's actions were unreasonable
under the standards set forth in Terry v. Ohio, supra.
this Court recognized that
"a police officer may, in appropriate circumstances and in an
appropriate manner, approach a person for purposes of investigating
possibly criminal behavior even though there is no probable cause
to make an arrest."
at 392 U. S. 22
Fourth Amendment does not require a policeman who lacks the precise
level of information necessary for probable cause to arrest to
simply shrug his shoulders and allow a crime to occur or a criminal
to escape. On the contrary, Terry
recognizes that it may
be the essence of good police work to adopt an intermediate
Page 407 U. S. 146
at 392 U. S. 23
brief stop of a suspicious individual, in order to determine his
identity or to maintain the status quo
obtaining more information, may be most reasonable in light of the
facts known to the officer at the time. Id.
392 U. S. 21
see Gaines v. Craven,
448 F.2d 1236 (CA9 1971); United
States v. Unverzagt,
424 F.2d 96 (CA8 1970).
The Court recognized in Terry
that the policeman making
a reasonable investigatory stop should not be denied the
opportunity to protect himself from attack by a hostile
"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,"
he may conduct a limited protective search for concealed
weapons. 392 U.S. at 392 U. S. 24
purpose of this limited search is not to discover evidence of
crime, but to allow the officer to pursue his investigation without
fear of violence, and thus the frisk for weapons might be equally
necessary and reasonable, whether or not carrying a concealed
weapon violated any applicable state law. So long as the officer is
entitled to make a forcible stop, [Footnote 1
] and has reason to believe that the suspect is
armed and dangerous, he may conduct a weapons search limited in
scope to this protective purpose. Id.
at 392 U. S. 30
Applying these principles to the present case, we believe that
Sgt. Connolly acted justifiably in responding to his informant's
tip. The informant was known to him personally, and had provided
him with information in the past. This is a stronger case than
obtains in the case of an anonymous telephone tip. The informant
here came forward personally to give information that was
immediately verifiable at the scene. Indeed, under
Page 407 U. S. 147
Connecticut law, the informant might have been subject to
immediate arrest for making a false complaint had Sgt. Connolly's
investigation proved the tip incorrect. [Footnote 2
] Thus, while the Court's decisions indicate
that this informant's unverified tip may have been insufficient for
a narcotics arrest or search warrant, see, e.g., Spinelli v.
United States, 393 U. S. 410
(1969); Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.
(1964), the information carried enough indicia of
reliability to justify the officer's forcible stop of Williams.
In reaching this conclusion, we reject respondent's argument
that reasonable cause for a stop and frisk can only be based on the
officer's personal observation, rather than on information supplied
by another person. Informants' tips, like all other clues and
evidence coming to a policeman on the scene, may vary greatly in
their value and reliability. One simple rule will not cover every
situation. Some tips, completely lacking in indicia of reliability,
would either warrant no police response or require further
investigation before a forcible stop of a suspect would be
authorized. But in some situations -- for example, when the victim
of a street crime seeks immediate police aid and gives a
description of his assailant, or when a credible informant warns of
a specific impending crime -- the subtleties of the hearsay rule
should not thwart an appropriate police response.
While properly investigating the activity of a person who was
reported to be carrying narcotics and a concealed weapon and who
was sitting alone in a car in a high-crime area at 2:15 in the
morning, Sgt. Connolly
Page 407 U. S. 148
had ample reason to fear for his safety. [Footnote 3
] When Williams rolled down his window,
rather than complying with the policeman's request to step out of
the car so that his movements could more easily be seen, the
revolver allegedly at Williams' waist became an even greater
threat. Under these circumstances, the policeman's action in
reaching to the spot where the gun was thought to be hidden
constituted a limited intrusion designed to insure his safety, and
we conclude that it was reasonable. The loaded gun seized as a
result of this intrusion was therefore admissible at Williams'
trial. Terry v. Ohio,
392 U.S. at 392 U. S. 30
Once Sgt. Connolly had found the gun precisely where the
informant had predicted, probable cause existed to arrest Williams
for unlawful possession of the weapon. Probable cause to arrest
"upon whether, at the moment the arrest was made . . . the facts
and circumstances within [the arresting officers'] knowledge and of
which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient
to warrant a prudent man in believing that the [suspect] had
committed or was committing an offense."
Beck v. Ohio, 379 U. S. 89
379 U. S. 91
(1964). In the present case, the policeman found Williams in
possession of a gun in precisely the place predicted by the
informant. This tended to corroborate the reliability of the
informant's further report of narcotics and, together with the
surrounding circumstances, certainly suggested no lawful
explanation for possession of the
Page 407 U. S. 149
gun. Probable cause does not require the same type of specific
evidence of each element of the offense as would be needed to
support a conviction. See Draper v. United States,
358 U. S. 307
358 U. S.
-312 (1959). Rather, the court will evaluate
generally the circumstances at the time of the arrest to decide if
the officer had probable cause for his action:
"In dealing with probable cause, however, as the very name
implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they
are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on
which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act."
Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.
, 338 U. S. 175
See also id.
at 338 U. S. 177
Under the circumstances surrounding Williams' possession of the gun
seized by Sgt. Connolly, the arrest on the weapons charge was
supported by probable cause, and the search of his person and of
the car incident to that arrest was lawful. See Brinegar v.
United States, supra; Carroll v. United States, 267 U.
(1925). The fruits of the search were therefore
properly admitted at Williams' trial, and the Court of Appeals
erred in reaching a contrary conclusion.
Petitioner does not contend that Williams acted voluntarily in
rolling down the window of his car.
Section 53-168 of the Connecticut General Statutes, in force at
the time of these events, provided that a "person who knowingly
makes to any police officer . . . a false report or a false
complaint alleging that a crime or crimes have been committed" is
guilty of a misdemeanor.
Figures reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate
that 125 policemen were murdered in 1971, with all but five of them
having been killed by gunshot wounds. Federal Bureau of
Investigation Law Enforcement Bulletin, Feb.1972, p. 33. According
to one study, approximately 30% of police shootings occurred when a
police officer approached a suspect seated in an automobile.
Bristow, Police Officer Shootings -- A Tactical Evaluation, 54
J.Crim.L.C. & P.S. 93 (1963).
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concurs,
My views have been stated in substance by Judge Friendly,
dissenting, in the Court of Appeals. 436 F.2d 30, 35. Connecticut
allows its citizens to carry weapons, concealed or otherwise, at
will, provided they have a permit. Conn.Gen.Stat.Rev. §§ 295,
29-38. Connecticut law gives its police no authority to frisk a
person for a permit. Yet the arrest was for illegal possession of a
gun. The only basis for that arrest was the informer's
Page 407 U. S. 150
tip on the narcotics. Can it be said that a man in possession of
narcotics will not have a permit for his gun? Is that why the
arrest for possession of a gun in the free-and-easy State of
Connecticut becomes constitutional?
The police problem is an acute one not because of the Fourth
Amendment, but because of the ease with which anyone can acquire a
pistol. A powerful lobby dins into the ears of our citizenry that
these gun purchases are constitutional rights protected by the
Second Amendment, which reads, "A well regulated Militia, being
necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people
to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
There is under our decisions no reason why stiff state laws
governing the purchase and possession of pistols may not be
enacted. There is no reason why pistols may not be barred from
anyone with a police record. There is no reason why a State may not
require a purchaser of a pistol to pass a psychiatric test. There
is no reason why all pistols should not be barred to everyone
except the police.
The leading case is United States v. Miller,
307 U. S. 174
upholding a federal law making criminal the shipment in interstate
commerce of a sawed-off shotgun. The law was upheld, there being no
evidence that a sawed-off shotgun had "some reasonable relationship
to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."
at 307 U. S. 178
The Second Amendment, it was held, "must be interpreted and
applied" with the view of maintaining a "militia."
"The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and
train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to
keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time
strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that
adequate defense of country and laws could be
Page 407 U. S. 151
secured through the Militia -- civilians primarily, soldiers on
at 307 U. S.
Critics say that proposals like this water down the Second
Amendment. Our decisions belie that argument, for the Second
Amendment, as noted, was designed to keep alive the militia. But if
watering-down is the mood of the day, I would prefer to water down
the Second rather than the Fourth Amendment. I share with Judge
Friendly a concern that the easy extension of Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U. S. 1
"possessory offenses" is a serious intrusion on Fourth Amendment
"If it is to be extended to the latter at all, this should be
only where observation by the officer himself or well authenticated
information shows 'that criminal activity may be afoot.'"
436 F.2d at 39, quoting Terry v. Ohio, supra,
392 U. S. 30
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, dissenting.
The crucial question on which this case turns, as the Court
concedes, is whether, there being no contention that Williams acted
voluntarily in rolling down the window of his car, the State had
shown sufficient cause to justify Sgt. Connolly's "forcible" stop.
I would affirm, believing, for the following reasons stated by
Judge, now Chief Judge, Friendly, dissenting, 436 F.2d 30, 339,
that the State did not make that showing:
"To begin, I have the gravest hesitancy in extending [Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.
(1968)] to crimes like the possession of narcotics.
. . . There is too much danger that, instead of the stop's being
the object and the protective frisk an incident thereto, the
reverse will be true. Against that we have here the added fact of
the report that Williams had a gun on his person. . . . [But]
Connecticut allows its citizens to carry weapons, concealed or
Page 407 U. S. 152
otherwise, at will, provided only they have a permit,
Conn.Gen.Stat. §§ 29-36 and 29-38, and gives its police officers no
special authority to stop for the purpose of determining whether
the citizen has one. . . ."
"If I am wrong in thinking that Terry
should not be
applied at all to mere possessory offenses, . . . I would not find
the combination of Officer Connolly's almost meaningless
observation and the tip in this case to be sufficient justification
for the intrusion. The tip suffered from a threefold defect, with
each fold compounding the others. The informer was unnamed, he was
not shown to have been reliable with respect to guns or narcotics,
and he gave no information which demonstrated personal knowledge or
-- what is worse -- could not readily have been manufactured by the
officer after the event. To my mind, it has not been sufficiently
recognized that the difference between this sort of tip and the
accurate prediction of an unusual event is as important on the
latter score as on the former. [In Draper v. United
States, 358 U. S. 307
Agent Marsh would hardly have been at the Denver Station at the
exact moment of the arrival of the train Draper had taken from
Chicago unless someone had told him something
although the agent might later have embroidered the details to fit
the observed facts. . . . There is no such guarantee of a
patrolling officer's veracity when he testifies to a 'tip' from an
unnamed informer saying no more than that the officer will find a
gun and narcotics on a man across the street, as he later does. If
the state wishes to rely on a tip of that nature to validate a stop
and frisk, revelation of the name of the informer or demonstration
that his name is unknown and could
Page 407 U. S. 153
not reasonably have been ascertained should be the price."
"Terry v. Ohio
was intended to free a police officer
from the rigidity of a rule that would prevent his doing anything
to a man reasonably suspected of being about to commit or having
just committed a crime of violence, no matter how grave the problem
or impelling the need for swift action, unless the officer had what
a court would later determine to be probable cause for arrest. It
was meant for the serious cases of imminent danger or of harm
recently perpetrated to person or property, not the conventional
ones of possessory offense. If it is to be extended to the latter
at all, this should be only where observation by the officer
himself or well authenticated information shows 'that criminal
activity may be afoot.' 392 U.S. at 392 U. S.
. . . . I greatly fear that, if the [contrary view]
should be followed, Terry
will have opened the sluice
gates for serious and unintended erosion of the protection of the
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS joins,
Four years have passed since we decided Terry v. Ohio,
392 U. S. 1
and its companion cases, Sibron v. New
and Peters v. New York, 392 U. S.
(1968). They were the first cases in which this Court
explicitly recognized the concept of "stop and frisk" and squarely
held that police officers may, under appropriate circumstances,
stop and frisk persons suspected of criminal activity even though
there is less than probable cause for an arrest. This case marks
our first opportunity to give some flesh to the bones of
Page 407 U. S. 154
Unfortunately, the flesh provided by today's
decision cannot possibly be made to fit on Terry's
"[T]he most basic constitutional rule in this area is that
'searches conducted outside the judicial process, without prior
approval by judge or magistrate, are per se
under the Fourth Amendment -- subject only to a few specifically
established and well delineated exceptions.' The exceptions are
'jealously and carefully drawn,' and there must be 'a showing by
those who seek exemption . . . that the exigencies of the situation
made that course imperative.' '[T]he burden is on those seeking the
exemption to show the need for it.'"
Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.
, 403 U. S. 454
455 (1971). In Terry,
we said that.
"we do not retreat from our holdings that the police must,
whenever practicable, obtain advance judicial approval of searches
and seizures through the warrant procedure."
392 U.S. at 392 U. S. 20
Yet, we upheld the stop and frisk in Terry
recognized that the realities of on-the-street law enforcement
require an officer to act at times on the basis of strong evidence,
short of probable cause, that criminal activity is taking place and
that the criminal is armed and dangerous. Hence, Terry
stands only for the proposition that police officers have a
"narrowly drawn authority to . . . search for weapons" without a
at 392 U. S. 27
In today's decision, the Court ignores the fact that
begrudgingly accepted the necessity for creating an
exception from the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment and
treats this case as if warrantless searches were the rule, rather
than the "narrowly drawn" exception. This decision betrays the
careful balance that Terry
sought to strike between a
citizen's right to privacy and his government's responsibility for
effective law enforcement, and expands the concept of
Page 407 U. S. 155
searches far beyond anything heretofore recognized as
legitimate. I dissent.
A. The Court's opinion states the facts, and I repeat only those
that appear to me to be relevant to the Fourth Amendment issues
Respondent was sitting on the passenger side of the front seat
of a car parked on the street in a "high crime area" in Bridgeport,
Connecticut, at 2:15 a.m. when a police officer approached his car.
During a conversation that had just taken place nearby, the officer
was told by an informant that respondent had narcotics on his
person and that he had a gun in his waistband. The officer saw that
the motor was not running, that respondent was seated peacefully in
the car, and that there was no indication that he was about to
leave the scene. After the officer asked respondent to open the
door, respondent rolled down his window instead, and the officer
reached into the car and pulled a gun from respondent's waistband.
The officer immediately placed respondent under arrest for carrying
the weapon, and searched him, finding heroin in his coat. More
heroin was found in a later search of the automobile. Respondent
moved to suppress both the gun and the heroin prior to trial. His
motion was denied, and he was convicted of possessing both
B. The Court erroneously attempts to describe the search for the
gun as a protective search incident to a reasonable investigatory
stop. But, as in Terry, Sibron
and Peters, supra,
there is no occasion in this case to determine whether or not
police officers have a right to seize and to restrain a citizen in
order to interrogate him. The facts are clear that the officer
intended to make the search as soon as he approached the
respondent. He asked no questions; he made no investigation; he
Page 407 U. S. 156
There was nothing apart from the information supplied by the
informant to cause the officer to search. Our inquiry must focus,
therefore, as it did in Terry,
on whether the officer had
sufficient facts from which he could reasonably infer that
respondent was not only engaging in illegal activity, but also that
he was armed and dangerous. The focus falls on the informant.
The only information that the informant had previously given the
officer involved homosexual conduct in the local railroad station.
The following colloquy took place between respondent's counsel and
the officer at the hearing on respondent's motion to suppress the
evidence that had been seized from him.
"Q. Now, with respect to the information that was given you
about homosexuals in the Bridgeport Police Station [sic
did that lead to an arrest? A. No."
"Q. An arrest was not made. A. No. There was no substantiating
"* * * *"
"Q. There was no substantiating evidence? A. No."
"Q. And what do you mean by that? A. I didn't have occasion to
witness these individuals committing any crime of any nature."
"Q. In other words, after this person gave you the information,
you checked for corroboration before you made an arrest. Is that
right? A. Well, I checked to determine the possibility of
"Q. And since an arrest was made, I take it you didn't find any
substantiating information. A. I'm sorry counselor, you say since
an arrest was made."
"Q. Was not made. Since an arrest was not made, I presume you
didn't find any substantiating information. A. No. "
Page 407 U. S. 157
Q. So that, you don't recall any other specific information
given you about the commission of crimes by this informant. A.
"Q. And you still thought this person was reliable. A. Yes.
Were we asked to determine whether the information supplied by
the informant was sufficient to provide probable cause for an
arrest and search, rather than a stop and frisk, there can be no
doubt that we would hold that it was insufficient. This Court has
squarely held that a search and seizure cannot be justified on the
basis of conclusory allegations of an unnamed informant who is
allegedly credible. Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.
(1964). In the recent case of Spinelli v.
United States, 393 U. S. 410
(1969), Mr. Justice Harlan made it plain beyond any doubt that,
where police rely on an informant to make a search and seizure,
they must know that the informant is generally trustworthy and that
he has obtained his information in a reliable way. Id.
393 U. S. 417
Since the testimony of the arresting officer in the instant case
patently fails to demonstrate that the informant was known to be
trustworthy, and since it is also clear that the officer had no
idea of the source of the informant's "knowledge," a search and
seizure would have been illegal.
that this case truly involves not
an arrest and a search incident thereto, but a stop and frisk,
] we must decide
whether or not the information possessed by the officer justified
this interference with respondent's liberty. Terry,
only case to actually
Page 407 U. S. 158
uphold a stop and frisk, [Footnote
] is not directly in point, because the police officer in
that case acted on the basis of his own personal observations. No
informant was involved. But the rationale of Terry
still controlling, and it requires that we condemn the conduct of
the police officer in encountering the respondent.
did not hold that, whenever a policeman has a
hunch that a citizen is engaging in criminal activity, he may
engage in a stop and frisk. It held that, if police officers want
to stop and frisk, they must have specific facts from which they
can reasonably infer that an individual is engaged in criminal
activity and is armed and dangerous. [Footnote 2/4
] It was central to our decision in
that the police officer acted on the basis of his
own personal observations, and that he carefully scrutinized the
conduct of his suspects before interfering with them in any way.
When we legitimated the conduct of the officer in Terry,
we did so because of the substantial reliability
information on which the officer based his decision to act.
If the Court does not ignore the care with which we examined the
knowledge possessed by the officer in Terry
when he acted,
then I cannot see how the actions of the officer in this case can
be upheld. The Court explains what the officer knew about
respondent before accosting him. But what is more significant is
what he did not know. With respect to the scene generally, the
officer had no idea how long respondent had been in the car, how
long the car had been parked, or to whom the car belonged. With
respect to the gun, [Footnote 2/5
the officer did not
Page 407 U. S. 159
know if or when the informant had ever seen the gun, or whether
the gun was carried legally, as Connecticut law permitted, or
illegally. [Footnote 2/6
] And with
respect to the narcotics, the officer did not know what kind of
narcotics respondent allegedly had, whether they were legally or
illegally possessed, what the basis of the informant's knowledge
was, or even whether the informant was capable of distinguishing
narcotics from other substances. [Footnote 2/7
Unable to answer any of these questions, the officer
nevertheless determined that it was necessary to intrude on
respondent's liberty. I believe that his determination was totally
unreasonable. As I read Terry,
an officer may act on the
basis of reliable
information short of probable cause to
make a stop, and ultimately a frisk, if necessary; but the officer
may not use unreliable, unsubstantiated, conclusory hearsay to
justify an invasion of liberty. Terry
never meant to
approve the kind of knee-jerk police reaction that we have before
us in this case.
Even assuming that the officer had some legitimate reason for
relying on the informant, Terry
requires, before any stop
and frisk is made, that the reliable information in the officer's
possession demonstrate that the suspect is both armed and
The fact remains that
Page 407 U. S. 160
Connecticut specifically authorizes persons to carry guns so
long as they have a permit. Thus, there was no reason for the
officer to infer from anything that the informant said that the
respondent was dangerous. His frisk was, therefore, illegal under
Even if I could agree with the Court that the stop and frisk in
this case was proper, I could not go further and sustain the arrest
and the subsequent searches. It takes probable cause to justify an
arrest and search and seizure incident thereto. Probable cause
means that the
"facts and circumstances before the officer are such as to
warrant a man of prudence and caution in believing that the offence
has been committed. . . ."
Stacey v. Emery, 97 U. S. 642
97 U. S. 645
(1878). "[G]ood faith is not enough to constitute probable cause."
Director General v. Kastenbaum, 263 U. S.
, 263 U. S. 28
Once the officer seized the gun from respondent, it is
uncontradicted that he did not ask whether respondent had a license
to carry it, or whether respondent carried it for any other legal
reason under Connecticut law. Rather, the officer placed him under
arrest immediately and hastened to search his person. Since
Connecticut has not made it illegal for private citizens to carry
guns, there is nothing in the facts of this case to warrant a man
"of prudence and caution" to believe that any offense had been
committed merely because respondent had a gun on his person.
] Any implication that
Page 407 U. S. 161
was some sort of a tacit admission of guilt would be utterly
It is simply not reasonable to expect someone to protest that he
is not acting illegally before he is told that he is suspected of
criminal activity. It would have been a simple matter for the
officer to ask whether respondent had a permit, but he chose not to
do so. In making this choice, he clearly violated the Fourth
This case marks a departure from the mainstream of our Fourth
Amendment cases. In Johnson v. United States, 333 U. S.
(1948), for example, the arresting officer had an
informant's tip and actually smelled opium coming from a room. This
Court still found the arrest unlawful. And in Spinelli v.
United States, 393 U. S. 410
found that there was no probable cause even where an informant's
information was corroborated by personal observation. If there was
no probable cause in those cases, I find it impossible to
understand how there can be probable cause in this case.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS was the sole dissenter in Terry.
warned of the "powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history
that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional
guarantees. . . ." 392 U.S. at 392 U. S. 39
While I took the position then that we were not watering down
rights, but were hesitantly and cautiously striking a necessary
balance between the rights of American citizens to be free from
government intrusion into their
Page 407 U. S. 162
privacy and their government's urgent need for a narrow
exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment,
today's decision demonstrates just how prescient MR. JUSTICE
It seems that the delicate balance that Terry
was simply too delicate, too susceptible to the "hydraulic
pressures" of the day. As a result of today's decision, the balance
struck in Terry
is now heavily weighted in favor of the
government. And the Fourth Amendment, which was included in the
Bill of Rights to prevent the kind of arbitrary and oppressive
police action involved herein, is dealt a serious blow. Today's
decision invokes the specter of a society in which innocent
citizens may be stopped, searched, and arrested at the whim of
police officers who have only the slightest suspicion of improper
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1
makes it clear that a stop and frisk is a search and seizure within
the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. When I use the term stop and
frisk herein, I merely intend to emphasize that it is, as
held, a lesser intrusion than a full-scale search
In Sibron v. New York, 392 U. S.
(1968), the Court held that the action of the
policeman could not be justified as a stop and frisk. In Peters
v. New York, 392 U. S. 40
(1968), the Court sustained the validity of a search and seizure by
holding that it was incident to a legal arrest.
Terry v. Ohio,
392 U.S. at 392 U. S. 29
Sibron v. New York,
392 U.S. at 392 U. S.
The fact that the respondent carried his gun in a high-crime
area is irrelevant. In such areas, it is more probable than not
that citizens would be more likely to carry weapons authorized by
the State to protect themselves.
Conn.Gen.Stat.Rev. § 29-35.
Connecticut permits possession of certain narcotics under
specified circumstances -- e.g.,
pursuant to a doctor's
Conn.Gen.Stat. Rev §§ 19-443, 19-456(c),
The Court virtually ignores the requirement that the suspect be
dangerous, as well as armed. Other courts have followed
more closely. See, e.g., Commonwealth v.
218 Pa.Super. 320, 323, 280 A.2d 425, 427 (1971);
Commonwealth v. Clarke,
219 Pa.Super. 340, 343, 280 A.2d
662, 663 (1971); Finley v. People,
176 Colo. 1, 488 P.2d 883
(1971). See also State v. Goudy,
52 Haw. 497, 505,
479 P.2d 800
805 (1971) (Abe, J., dissenting).
The Court appears to rely on the fact that the existence of the
gun corroborated the information supplied to the officer by the
informant. It cannot be disputed that there is minimal
corroboration here, but the fact remains that the officer still
lacked any knowledge that respondent had done anything illegal.
Since carrying a gun is not per se
illegal in Connecticut,
the fact that respondent carried a gun is no more relevant to
probable cause than the fact that his shirt may have been blue, or
that he was wearing a jacket. Moreover, the fact that the informant
can identify a gun on sight does not indicate an ability to do the
same with narcotics. The corroboration of this one fact is a far
cry from the corroboration that the Court found sufficient to
sustain an arrest in Draper v. United States, 358 U.