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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > June 2015 > Search and Seizure (Open Carry): Northrup v. City of Toledo Police Department

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Search and Seizure (Open Carry): Northrup v. City of Toledo Police Department

Question: If someone is openly carrying a firearm, can an officer conduct a Terry stop and frisk and disarm the person?

Quick Answer:  No, open carry is legal in Ohio and simply carrying a weapon openly is not sufficient reasonable suspicion to justify a Terry stop and frisk.  

City of Toledo Police Department, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Northern District of Ohio (May 13, 2015)

Facts: An officer was advised by dispatch that a man was walking his dog while openly carrying a gun on his hip. The officer responded to the call and saw the subject, Shawn Northrup, and his wife walking their dog down the street. The officer approached Northrup and disarmed him. He demanded his driver’s license and concealed carry permit. Northrup gave the officer his license but told the officer to look up his concealed carry permit himself. The officer then threatened to charge Northrup with inducing panic, put Northrup in handcuffs, and placed him in his squad car. He eventually released Northrup with a citation for “failure to disclose personal information.” The charge was later dropped by police. Northrup sued the officer and the Toledo Police Department for violating his Fourth Amendment rights.

Importance: Clearly established law prevents officers from stopping and frisking individuals unless they have “reasonable suspicion” that the individual committed, or is about to commit, a crime. While Northrup was clearly “armed,” he was legally armed and there is no evidence that he was armed and dangerous. Because Northrup’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated, the Court allowed Northrup’s lawsuit to proceed. 

Keep in Mind: Officers can always approach someone who is openly carrying and ask them questions when it is a consensual encounter. What an officer cannot do under the Fourth Amendment is require them to answer. Failure to disclose is not a proper charge because a citizen who is openly carrying a gun, and otherwise not committing a crime, is under no obligation to produce identification. Inducing panic doesn’t fit because it requires the commission of an “offense,” and carrying a handgun in the open is not an offense.