Terry stops are often a point of discussion for West Tampa criminal defense attorneys because many individuals are arrested relating to them, and they have many questions in light of the intrusion of law enforcement in a normal day. These sort of stops arise from a United States Supreme Court decision, titled, Terry vs. Ohio. This case is significant because for the first time, the United States Supreme Court recognized law enforcement’s ability to conduct a brief detention of an individual to conduct a pat-down only to discover weapons or immediately identifiable contraband.
Again, this was somewhat revolutionary because for the first time, it permitted law enforcement to essentially conduct a traffic stop of an individual on a street to attempt through a “safety” pat-down, to identify contraband. This permits law enforcement to essentially conduct a traffic stop of an individual, without going through the formal process of either – getting a warrant or formally arresting an individual and charging them with a crime based on probable cause. The initial justification of these stop was, of course, officer safety, because law enforcement didn’t feel comfortable not being able to determine whether the individual they are surrounded by were carrying concealed firearms.
Many West Tampa arrests come out of Terry stops, because individuals are either carrying concealed firearms or possessing drugs. For example, the most common charges we see coming out of Terry stops are possession of controlled substance, carrying concealed firearm, and/or felony possession of a firearm. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on our West Tampa criminal defense attorney blog, felon in possession of a firearm is a significant charge, because it carries a lengthy minimum mandatory prison sentence. We discuss this elsewhere on our West Tampa criminal defense attorney blog.
It’s worth noting that officers are limited during a Terry stop to what is called the “plain field” doctrine. This essentially means that law enforcement can only arrest an individual and/or seize contraband that is immediately recognizable to be contraband. Obviously, this isn’t an issue when the contraband is a firearm or another weapon. The issue becomes much more contentious and more heavily litigated when an officer claims that they immediately recognized some sort of drugs. Obviously, it’s hard to believe that a law enforcement officer, regardless of their training or experience would immediately recognize a 1” by 1” square to be a baggie of cocaine, marijuana, or another controlled substance.
If you have questions for one of our West Tampa criminal defense attorneys, contact the attorneys of Hackworth Law, for a free case consultation. We’ve handled thousands of cases throughout the Tampa Bay area, and will work hard to determine an aggressive strategy to defend your rights. If you’d like to contact one of our West Tampa criminal defense attorneys immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website, or the “chat now” box in the lower right hand corner of our website. We appreciate you taking the time to check our West Tampa criminal defense attorney blog and look forward to working with you in the future.