7th Circuit SpotlightIn a well-known search and seizure case, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a police officer could conduct a “brief investigatory stop” based on reasonable suspicion and, in conjunction with that stop, pat down the target for weapons. In Terry, the police officer “had become thoroughly suspicious” based upon his observation of two men engaged in “elaborately casual and often repeated reconnaissance,” which appeared to him to be efforts of “casing a job, a stickup.” “Reasonable suspicion” requires more than an “inarticulate hunch,” but Terry permitted this limited intrusion based on a lower threshold than the showing of probable cause required to obtain a search warrant. In four recent cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has explored the outer limits of the Terry doctrine.

United States v. Richmond, 924 F. 3d 404 (7th Cir. 2019), dealt with a man, Antoine Richmond, who was observed shortly before midnight in the “high crime area” where he happened to live.  He had his hand in a pocket and the police observed a bulge in the pocket. The police officer suspected Richmond had a gun. After noticing the police, Richmond crossed the front lawn of a residence (coincidentally, his home), walked onto the porch, and placed an unknown object between the outer screen door and the closed front door of the house. The police approached Richmond. One stood between him and the closed door. The police officer opened the door, observed a weapon, and arrested Richmond. The Seventh Circuit upheld the denial of the suppression motion. The court found Richmond was engaged in suspicious conduct supporting a Terry stop and a search of the area in which Richmond might access a weapon.

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