Generally, a police officer needs a warrant to seize a person suspected of a crime. There are some exceptions to the warrant requirement, including the Terry stop. Terry allows an officer to briefly stop and question someone if the officer had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The officer’s suspicion must be based on specific and articulable facts and be individualized to the person. Challenging the validity of a seizure, including a Terry stop, can be an important aspect of a Washington criminal defense case.
A minor defendant recently appealed his conviction, arguing the officer did not have grounds to conduct a Terry stop. According to the court’s opinion, the officer stopped a vehicle after seeing it roll through a stop sign. There were three passengers in addition to the driver. The defendant was the front seat passenger.
The officer smelled marijuana when he approached the vehicle. The driver told him all of the occupants were seventeen. The driver denied having marijuana, there being marijuana in the car, or any of the passengers having marijuana. He said his mother used marijuana and that could have been what the officer smelled. The officer frisked him and put him the back of the patrol car.