Skip to content
Name: United States v. Flatter
Case #: 04-30337
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/09/2006

Flatter was a postal service employee suspected of stealing mail. Before questioning him, officers conducted a patdown search for officer safety, even though they had no evidence he had a weapon. The search revealed evidence of guilt. The district court found the search lawful, and Flatter was convicted of mail theft. The appellate court reversed, finding that officers had no reason to believe Flatter was armed, and therefore no grounds for the search. The officers did not observe any bulges in Terrell’s clothing; nothing in the his demeanor aroused the officers’ concerns for their safety or suggested he might be armed; he did not act in a threatening manner at any time and the officers were unaware of any past violent conduct; the suspected crime (mail theft by postal employees) is not a crime that is frequently associated with weapons; and the record does not suggest that the defendant had any idea he was under investigation. The court rejected the government’s contention that the envelope found during the search would have been discovered even without the frisk for weapons.