June 2006 Bar Bulletin
Washington Limitations on Investigatory Stops
By Jaime Drozd Allen
No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.1
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is a bedrock in the Bill of Rights that was intended to fiercely guard an individual's private affairs and to provide protection from unwarranted government seizures such as the highly invasive searches made by British customs officials in England.
At its most basic level, the Fourth Amendment guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures."2 Initially, this was interpreted to require probable cause of criminal activity, which exists when the "facts and circumstances within [an officer's] knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed."3
Terry v. Ohio
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