Reasonable Cause When it Comes to Stop Term Paper

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reasonable cause when it comes to stop and frisk. The writer argues that because of the increased threat of domestic terrorism the laws should be change so that reasonable cause is no longer required for stop and frisk actions. There were eight sources used to complete this paper.

Several years ago Britain took a significant step in its war on terrorism when it changed the laws regarding mandated criteria for stop and search. In an unprecedented move the British government changed the law so that police officers do not have to have reasonable cause to stop and frisk. The new powers given to police allow them to stop anyone, anywhere at anytime to frisk and search. Britain did this in an effort to fight the ever growing threat of domestic terrorism. If the person in question refuses to allow a search they can be arrested, jailed and fined for that refusal (Stop, 1996). The vote to allow the new power by law enforcement was almost unanimously supported. While Britain and America have spent the last 13 years fighting international terrorism side by side, America has insisted on hanging onto its stop and frisk laws. American laws mandate that the law enforcement officials have reasonable cause to stop and frisk before they are allowed to do so. Following the events of 9-11 in New York City nationwide debates were sparked about how far the American domestic war on terrorism should be allowed to go. While it is important to protect the basic rights of every American citizen, the changes in the methods of terrorists have forced America to rethink several of its mandates. The requirement of reasonable cause before law enforcement officers can stop and frisk puts America at a continued higher risk for domestic terrorism. Because of current awareness that terrorists are willing to murder innocent civilians it is time to change the law in America so that reasonable cause is no longer needed for a stop and frisk (Stop, 1996).


At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Supreme Court believed that, as a general rule, police need a warrant to seize or search anyone or anything. Over time, however, the Court developed exceptions to this general principle. When it came to searching and seizing (arresting) people who were in public places, the Court ultimately decided a warrant generally would not be required (McWhirter, 1994)." In its place the system developed a rule often referred to as reasonable cause. Law enforcement officers have to believe there is reasonable cause that the person in question is an immediate threat to the life and safety of others, whether those others are the law enforcement officers, or civilians.

There have been court cases that have been heard in the Supreme Court regarding past stop and frisks and the need for probable cause (McWhirter, 1994). The difference in the cases and the side the court took in the cases provide a perfect foundation for the argument that reasonable cause should be dropped as a requirement for stop and frisks. In one case two people looked suspicious as if they were casing a store for robbery. The police officers that observed them stopped and frisked them and indeed found guns in their possession. The conviction stood on the grounds that the police officers had reasonable cause to believe that the men were armed. A later case however involved a search warrant for a bar, in the search for drugs. While in the bar officers began to pat down customers, and one of the customers had illegal drugs in his possession. He was arrested and convicted but the conviction was overturned because the court believed there was no reasonable cause to believe anyone's life was in immediate danger which meant there was no cause to stop and frisk without a search warrant for the person in question.

In the 1979 case of Ybarra v. Illinois, Justice Rehnquist, Justice Blackmun, and Chief Justice Burger dissented from an opinion written by Justice Stewart. In this case police had a search warrant to search the Aurora Tap Tavern for drugs. While searching the tavern, the police also patted down the customers for weapons. When they frisked Ventura Ybarra, it was clear that he had a cigarette pack in his pocket. When they removed the pack they found that it…

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