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Terry Stop? What’s a Terry Stop?

Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people know that as a general rule, a police officer cannot search you or your vehicle without probable cause, according to article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. But there are exceptions to this warrant requirement. In fact, Washington recognizes at least six narrow exceptions to this warrant requirement. They are Consent, Exigent Circumstances, Searches Incident to a Valid Arrest, Inventory Searches, Plain View Searches, and…the Terry investigative stop.

A Terry stop is quite common and an officer must have a reasonable and articulable suspicion of either criminal activity such as Driving Under the Influence or a traffic violation. This stop allows an officer to briefly detain, for limited questioning, a person for the above reasons. For example, when police are unable to locate a person suspected of a past crime, this ability to briefly stop that person, ask questions, or check identification helps law enforcement do their job.

Therefore, this minimally intrusive Terry stop allows an officer to make an intermediate response to a situation for which he or she lacks probable cause to arrest but which calls for further investigation.

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