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Illinois v. Wardlow

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 528 U.S. 119, 120 S. Ct. 673, 145 L. Ed. 2d 570 (2000)

Brief Fact Summary. An individual was arrested after fleeing from police officers in a known narcotics trafficking area.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The arresting officer “was justified in suspecting that [the suspect] was involved in criminal activity, and, therefore in investigating further.”


Facts. The Respondent, Wardlow (the “Respondent”), fled from an area known for heavy narcotics trafficking after seeing police officers. The Respondent was caught by two officers and they conducted a protective pat down for weapons. The officers found a 38-caliber handgun and arrested the Respondent.
The Illinois trial court denied the Respondent’s motion to suppress, finding that the gun was recovered during a lawful stop and frisk. The Respondent was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon.
The Illinois Appellate Court reversed and found that the gun should have been suppressed because the arresting officer did not have a reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify a [Terry v. Ohio] stop.
The Illinois Supreme Court agreed and found that sudden flight in a high crime area does not create a reasonable suspicion justifying a [Terry] stop. The court found that based on [Florida v. Royer], flight may be an exercise of ones right “to go on one’s way”, and could not constitute reasonable suspicion. The court also found that flight plus a high crime area also were not sufficient.

Issue. Did the stop by the police officers violate the Constitution?

Content Type: Brief


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