Citation. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 120 S. Ct. 673, 145 L. Ed. 2d 570, 2000 U.S. LEXIS 504, 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 299, 2000 Daily Journal DAR 389, 1999 Colo. J. C.A.R. 183, 13 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 20 (U.S. Jan. 12, 2000)
Brief Fact Summary. Defendant William Wardlow was stopped and frisked after looking towards police officers and then running in an area known for heavy narcotics trafficking.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Nervous, evasive behavior and location in a high crime area are relevant factors in determining the reasonable suspicion necessary for a Terry stop under the Fourth Amendment.
While holding an opaque bag in an area known for heavy narcotics trafficking, the defendant flees on seeing police officers patrolling, and two officers catch up to him and conduct a pat-down weapons search finding a .38 caliber handgun on his person. Trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, but the appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the lower appellate court’s result stating that the combination of sudden flight and presence in a high crime area did not reach the status of reasonable suspicion necessary to justify a Terry stop. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the State of Illinois. Issue.
Are officers justified in suspecting that a defendant was involved in criminal activity based on the combination of their presence in an area of frequent narcotics trafficking and the defendant’s unprovoked flight on noticing them?