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What’s a “Terry Stop?”

You were minding your own business when an officer approached you and started asking questions about what you were doing and why you were there. The next thing you know, you were being frisked for weapons — and the officer found a marijuana joint inside an Altoids tin in your pocket.

Now, you’re charged with possession.

An improper Terry Stop and search may be part of your defense

Terry Stops are a loss term for any situation where an officer decides to stop and frisk someone based on the reasonable concern that you may be carrying a weapon that could be used to hurt the officer or commit a crime.

Frankly, officers have been known to misuse this privilege to hunt for evidence of other crimes, like drug possession. They are supposed to limit their searches to a mere pat-down of your outer clothing and only dig deeper if they have a reasonable belief that whatever they’re looking into could be concealing a weapon.

For example, if the officer can feel what they think is the outline of a gun inside your jacket, that’s a reasonable excuse to look closer. It may be a lot harder, however, for an officer to articulate what kind of weapon they thought you had hidden in an Altoids tin. That gives you significant room to challenge the legality of the search — which can defeat the charges against you.

When you’re facing possession charges in Georgia, seek help

Georgia is fairly unforgiving when it comes to drug possession charges, even marijuana. The smart thing to do is to comply with the officer’s pat-down, invoke your right to remain silent and take your story to an experienced defense attorney who is willing to aggressively protect your rights.