Attorney James K. Minick

Attorney James K. Minick

Under the 4th Amendment, the Constitution guarantees that an individual is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is due to the fact that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy from government intrusion. But what is considered an unreasonable search? After the Supreme Court ruled that frisks of suspects for weapons by police officers were considered reasonable in Terry v. Ohio, what types of searches are unreasonable? Would a Terry frisk of a person’s car for weapons be considered unreasonable in the eyes of the law?

Maryland v. Buie

In Maryland v. Buie, the Supreme Court was faced with the question of whether police officers were allowed to do a protective sweep of a house for weapons. After an armed robbery of a pizza place, police officers got arrest warrants for two suspects. While attempting to use the arrest warrants on the suspects, the police officers entered the house where the suspects were holed up. While searching, a police officer shouted down into the basement, ordering anyone down there to come out. After one of the suspects came up and surrendered himself, a police officer went down into the basement and observed incriminating evidence. At trial, the suspect argued that the evidence should be excluded because the police officer had no reason to search the basement after his surrender. After considering the legal arguments and theories of the case, the Supreme Court ruled that the search by the police officer was allowed under the Terry doctrine of a protective sweep in order to ensure officer safety from weapons or danger.


Based off of Maryland v. Buie, police officers are allowed to do a limited protective sweep when arresting a suspect in order to ensure officer safety. However, to do this, a police officer must have articulable reasonable suspicion of possible danger or existence of weapons in order to do this protective search.  Although this reasonable suspicion requirement may seem like it would limit the ability of police to do a protective sweep, this requirement is pretty easy to fulfill since arrests and inherently dangerous. As such, anything discovered through a protective sweep is generally admissible in court.

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If you or someone you know have been charged with a crime based off a Terry search of your house, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case and possibly get the evidence excluded. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.

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