United States v. Herman Adair (7th Cir. June 2019)

The Federal Docket

August 25, 2019

Fourth Amendment/Terry Stop – Stop and frisk was reasonable where, despite discrepancies between the description of the suspect and the defendant, the officer knew the defendant was a felon, the defendant had a bulge in his pants, and the defendant acted nervous around the officer.

Herman Adair was arrested and convicted of possession of a firearm after an officer found a firearm in his pants while conducting a stop and frisk pursuant to Terry v. Ohio. On appeal, Adair argued that the stop and frisk was not supported by reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in a crime.

The Seventh Circuit disagreed. The officer in question was responding to a call from a resident of the neighborhood regarding suspicious people outside the apartment, in particular a short black male wearing a hoodie with a gun in his pocket. When the officer arrived, he noticed that Adair, who he knew as a felon and non-resident of the complex, had a bulge in his pants’ pocket, “roughly fit” the caller’s description, and had been subtly trying to avoid contact with the officer while the officer was talking to other people in the group.

The Court acknowledged that the post-arrest photos revealed that Adair was never wearing a hoodie, but nonetheless concluded that the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk, especially after the officer noticed that Adair was trying to avoid him. The Court added that Adair was the only person in the group who remotely resembled the caller’s description and the officer knew the area was dangerous and frequented by gangs, bolstering his suspicion that Adair might be unlawfully engaged in criminal activity.

Appeal from the Central District of Illinois

Opinion by Scudder, joined by Sykes and St. Eve

Click here to read the opinion.


Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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