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Adams v. Williams

A Dangerous Extension Of Terry

Justices Douglas, Brennan, and Marshall, dissenting from the Court's opinion, decried the Court's extension of Terry. The dissenting justices first thought that the informant's uncorroborated tip was insufficient to give the officer a reasonable suspicion that Williams was in possession of a gun. Justice Marshall distinguished the search allowed in Terry because, in that case, the officer acted based on his own observations after careful scrutiny of the suspects. On the contrary, in this case, Justice Marshall argued, the officer relied only upon "unreliable, unsubstantiated, conclusory hearsay to justify an invasion of liberty."

More importantly, in Justice Marshall's view, the Court was extending Terry too far. As he reasoned, Terry struck a delicate balance between the rights of citizens to be free from unreasonable searches and the need for police officers to be safe when conducting reasonable investigations of criminal wrongdoing. In Justice Marshall's view, the Court's opinion tipped this balance too far in favor of police officers:

As a result of today's decision, the balance struck in Terry is now heavily weighted in favor of the government. And the Fourth Amendment, which was included in the Bill of Rights to prevent the kind of arbitrary and oppressive police action involved herein, is dealt a serious blow. Today's decision invokes the specter of a society in which innocent citizens may be stopped, searched, and arrested at the whim of police officers who have only the slightest suspicion of improper conduct.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Adams v. Williams - Significance, Protective Searches For Weapons Are Permissible, A Dangerous Extension Of Terry, Impact