Oral argument: Dec. 9, 2008
Appealed from: Court of Appeals, State of Arizona, Division Two, (Sep. 10, 2007)
FOURTH AMENDMENT, CONSENSUAL ENCOUNTER, FRISK, SEARCH, SEIZE, TERRY V. OHIO
Lemon Johnson was a passenger in the back seat of a vehicle stopped for a mandatory insurance suspension. A police officer initiated a conversation with Johnson that was unrelated to the reason for the traffic stop. After asking him to exit the car, the officer conducted a pat-down search of Johnson because she was concerned for her safety upon noticing signs that Johnson may have been affiliated with a gang. During the pat-down search, the officer found a gun, which was used as evidence to convict Johnson at trial. Johnson argues that this evidence should have been suppressed because the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights: the officer had no reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring, and therefore the pat-down search did not meet the standard articulated by Terry v. Ohio. In this case, the State of Arizona argues that police officers should have the right to conduct a pat-down search if there is a reasonable basis to believe the individual is armed and dangerous. Numerous organizations and all lower courts that have considered the issue have adopted this standard to increase officer safety. Johnson, however, maintains that expanding Terry in the way that Arizona proposes is unnecessary and would encourage discretionary pat-down searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment.