Fourth Amendment

Illinois v. Wardlow, No. 98-1036

For Case Analysis: See Preview 96

Can police detain an individual solely because the police observed that upon spotting them the individual ran away?

Decision: Yes. The Court voted 5-4 that the defendant’s presence in an area of heavy narcotics trafficking, combined with his unprovoked flight upon noticing the police, provided the police with justifiable suspicion that he was involved in criminal activity and, therefore, in investigating further.

From the majority opinion by Chief Justice Rehnquist (joined by Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas):

“Headlong flight—wherever it occurs—is the consummate act of evasion: it is not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing, but it is certainly suggestive of such.”

Concurring in part and dissenting in part: Justice Stevens (joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer).

Opinion and briefs:

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