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.”
Issue. Did the stop by the police officers violate the Constitution?
Held. No. The majority first observed that the brief encounter in this case was governed by the analysis in [Terry], which concerned “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity being “afoot.” Someone solely being in an area of high crime is not enough standing alone to support a reasonable particularized suspicion that the person is committing a crime. However, “officers are not required to ignore the relevant characteristics of a location in determining whether the circumstances are sufficiently suspicious to warrant further investigation.” It is one of the “relevant contextual considerations in a [Terry] analysis.”
Further, here, “it was not merely respondent’s presence in an area of heavy narcotics trafficking that aroused the officers’ suspicion but his unprovoked flight upon noticing the police.” Cases have held “that nervous, evasive behavior is a pertinent factor in determining reasonable suspicion.”
“Unprovoked flight is simply not a mere refusal to cooperate. Flight, by its very nature, is not ‘going about ones business’; in fact it is just the opposite.” Moreover, “[a]llowing officers confronted with such flight to stop the fugitive and investigate further is quite consistent with the individual’s right to go about his business or to stay put and remain silent in the face of police questioning.”
“In allowing [detentions] like the one in this case, [Terry] accepts the risk that officers may stop innocent people. Indeed the Fourth Amendment accepts the risk in connection with more drastic police action; persons arrested and detained on probable cause to believe they have committed a crime may turn out to be innocent.”
When an officer, without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, approaches an individual, the individual has a right to ignore the police and go about his business.View Full Point of Law