A Terry-type search of an Atloids tin, a bundle wrapped in duct tape and a brass pipe did not violate a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights because the officer who conducted the search “testified that he thought each of these items could be, or could conceal, a weapon,” the Ninth Circuit held today in U.S. v. Hartz, No. 05-30134.
This ruling is just a small detail in an opinion that is mostly about other issues — it takes up all of two paragraphs at pp. 9771-9772. But it’s an example of how slender the justification needs to be for this kind of search. What possible weapon would have fit inside an Altoids tin? None that I can think of. But deference is the rule, so this type of assertion by a police officer actually carries considerable weight.