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Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977)


After police officers had stopped respondent’s automobile for being operated with an expired license plate, one of the officers asked respondent to step out of the car and produce his license and registration. As respondent alighted, a large bulge under his jacket was noticed by the officer, who thereupon frisked him and found a loaded revolver. Respondent was then arrested and subsequently indicted for carrying a concealed weapon and unlicensed firearm. His motion to suppress the revolver was denied and after a trial, at which the revolver was introduced in evidence, he was convicted. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed on the ground that the revolver was seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment.


1. The order to get out of the car, issued after the respondent was lawfully detained, was reasonable, and thus permissible under the Fourth Amendment. The State’s proffered justification for such order — the officer’s safety — is both legitimate and weighty, and the intrusion into respondent’s personal liberty occasioned by the order, being, at most, a mere inconvenience, cannot prevail when balanced against legitimate concerns for the officer’s safety.

2. Under the standard announced in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1,  392 U. S. 21-22 — whether

“the facts available to the officer at the moment of the seizure or the search ‘warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief’ that the action taken was appropriate”

— the officer was justified in making the search he did once the bulge in respondent’s jacket was observed.

Certiorari granted; 471 Pa. 546, 370 A.2d 1157, reversed and remanded.