Court Lets Stand Michigan Limits on Frisking
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today let stand a decision limiting police power to frisk motorists suspected of drunken driving.
The court, without comment, rejected an appeal by Michigan prosecutors seeking to reinstate a weapons charge against a driver who was carrying a loaded revolver.
James Raydee Parham was stopped by police in Detroit late on the night of Nov. 28, 1982.
The officers said he was changing lanes without signaling and had cut dangerously in front of another car. They said that they detected a slight odor of alcohol and that Parham’s eyes appeared glazed when he was stopped.
The police said they performed a ″routine″ pat-down search of Parham prior to giving him sobriety tests and discovered a loaded .22-caliber pistol in his pants pocket.
Parham passed the sobriety tests but was charged with illegal possession of the gun.
A judge said Parham was frisked illegally and ordered the gun suppressed as evidence.
A Michigan appeals court agreed that police may not conduct such a pat down without a reasonable belief the motorist is armed.
The interest in protecting the police is balanced against ″the individual’s right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers,″ the state court said in a ruling that is binding only in Michigan.
The Supreme Court in 1977 said police have the right to frisk motorists they stop if they fear for their safety, but police observed nothing about Parham to make them fearful.
In the appeal acted on today, Michigan authorities said, ″Given the obscene abundance of weapons in American society, any search conducted for the limited purpose of uncovering weapons held by any person who police may lawfully detain is (automatically) reasonable.″
The case is Michigan vs. Parham, 86-22.