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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > August 2016 > State v. Thip, 2016 Ohio 4970

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State v. Thip, 2016 Ohio 4970

Question: Does an officer who pats down a known gang member prior to issuing a citation on the scene of a chaotic call run afoul of the Fourth Amendment?

Quick Answer: No. Under the totality of the circumstances, and the officer’s knowledge of the defendant and his gang affiliation, he was justified in patting down the suspect for weapons.

Facts: Columbus Police Officer Leppla responded to a disturbance around 11:30 p.m. in a high-crime area. Officer Leppla testified he had responded to this area for calls ranging from neighborhood disputes to shootings. Upon arriving in the area he observed Thip outside urinating. Officer Leppla stopped Thip and immediately recognized him by name and knew he was a member of the “Tiny Rascal gang.” He escorted Thip to his cruiser, patted him down for weapons, and found a firearm in his waistband. Thip filed a motion to suppress the pat down. During the hearing, Officer Leppla testified to his knowledge and dealings with the Tiny Rascal gang. This included calls about shootings and other incidents involving weapons. The trial court denied the motion to suppress and Thip appealed. On appeal, the court noted the totality of the circumstances. The nature of the call, his knowledge of Thip and his gang affiliation as well as the gang’s involvement in firearms-related incidents supported Officer Leppla’s belief that Thip may have been armed and dangerous.

Keep in Mind: In order to pat down for weapons someone who is not under arrest, the officer must have consent or a reasonable belief the suspect is armed and dangerous.