Lets say Bob is walking down the street, somewhere in the US. A police officer stops and detains Bob. Bob has not broken any laws. The officer asks Bob for an ID and he refuses.

Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1 (1968) says that the officer is allowed to do an exterior search of the person for weapons. Bob doesn't have any personal items on him except his ID. The officer feels his ID in his back pocket and pulls it out to run his ID. Bob has no record and is cut loose.

Did the officer violate Bob's 4th amendment rights?

  • 1
    This is not a credible scenario because you cannot feel an ID in someone's pocket. You can feel a wallet, which might contain an ID.
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 2:15
  • 1
    When a driver's license is by itself in a back pocket, you think it can't be felt?
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 2:21
  • @bdb484 You still can't tell it's an ID. You can tell it's a plastic card, but it could be a credit card or hotel keycard.
    – user71659
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 3:31
  • @user71659 I've personally seen officers turn people's pockets inside out on the side of the road and place the contents on top of their squad cars. This is not an unreasonable scenario especially given the latitude cops are given in their search for weapons. They can easily say it could be a fold out knife in the shape of a typical id card as products like this exist; holtzmansurvival.com/products/best-credit-card-knife-holtzman Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 3:38
  • Why was Bob detained? Purely random and speculatively? Or were the circumstances such to give the officer reasonable suspicion to question Bob?
    – user35069
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


In Terry, the court said that the "scope of the search must be 'strictly tied to and justified by' the circumstances which rendered its initiation permissible", and "The sole justification of the search ... is the protection of the police officer and others nearby, and it must therefore be confined in scope to an intrusion reasonably designed to discover guns, knives, clubs, or other hidden instruments for the assault of the police officer". McFadden "patted down the outer clothing of petitioner and his two companions. He did not place his hands in their pockets or under the outer surface of their garments until he had felt weapons, and then he merely reached for and removed the guns... Officer McFadden confined his search strictly to what was minimally necessary to learn whether the men were armed and to disarm them once he discovered the weapons. He did not conduct a general exploratory search for whatever evidence of criminal activity he might find".

The search, as you describe it, is plainly an unlawful search of the person for the purpose of overcoming the person's lawful refusal to provide ID.

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