What Is a Reasonable Suspicion to Frisk ?
"Although a reasonable 'stop' is a necessary predecessor to a reasonable 'frisk,' a reasonable 'frisk' does not inevitably follow in the wake of every reasonable 'stop.'" Gibbs v. State, 18 Md. App. 230, 238-39, 306 A.2d 587 (1973).
Turning to the frisk, we are once again guided by Terry and its progeny. "When an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently dangerous to the officer or to others," the officer may conduct a pat-down search "to determine whether the person is in fact carrying a weapon." Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 373, 113 S. Ct. 2130, 124 L. Ed. 2d 334 (1993) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 24).
Because "the purpose of this limited search is not to discover evidence of crime, but to allow the officer to pursue his investigation without fear of violence," Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 146, 92 S. Ct. 1921, 32 L. Ed. 2d 612 (1972), the search must be confined to finding weapons that might place the officer or the public in danger. Dickerson, 508 U.S. at 373 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 26); State v. Smith, 345 Md. 460, 465, 693 A.2d 749 (1997).
In Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 62, 88 S. Ct. 1889, 20 L. Ed. 2d 917 (1968), decided the same day as Terry, the Supreme Court overturned Sibron's heroin conviction because the search that led to the drugs was not premised on probable cause, and it went beyond the protective frisk sanctioned in Terry.
The apprehending officer observed Sibron conversing with known heroin addicts throughout an eight-hour period. He then approached Sibron, told him, "You know what I am after," and thrust his hand into Sibron's pocket, locating the drugs. In overturning the conviction, the Court stated:
The police officer is not entitled to seize and search every person whom he sees on the street or of whom he makes inquiries.
Before he places a hand on the person of a citizen in search of anything, he must have constitutionally adequate, reasonable grounds for doing so.
In the case of the self-protective search for weapons, he must be able to point to particular facts from which he reasonably inferred that the individual was armed and dangerous. Sibron, 392 U.S. at 64 (citing Terry, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968)).