Illinois v. Wardlow

Illinois v. Wardlow Case Brief

United States Supreme Court
528 U.S. 119 (2000)

ISSUE: May a police officer perform a Terry stop when he sees an individual flee from the scene when the police drive by and the individual is in a high-crime area?
HOLDING: Yes.
FACTS:
  • Officers were in a 4-car caravan going through a high-crime area when they saw D run
  • The officers cornered D on the street, and one officer approached him and felt him and his bag for weapons
  • A handgun and ammunition were found in the bag
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
  • Trial Ct. refused to suppress
  • Ct. App. reversed holding that Officer Nolan didn't have reasonable suspicion to justify an investigative stop
  • Ill. Sup. Ct. affirmed holding that fleeing can't provide reasonable suspicion because it is simply exercising a person's right to "go on one's way"
RULES:
  • Terry: An officer may conduct a brief, investigatory stop when the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot
    • Reasonable suspicion requires a minimal level of objective justification; more than just a mere hunch
REASONING:
  • Officer had reasonable suspicion: Officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that D was involved in criminal activity because of his presence in a high-crime area and his unprovoked flight
    • An individual's presence in an area of expected criminal activity, standing alone, is not enough to support a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person is committing a crime
    • Unprovoked flight is also a factor in determining reasonable suspicion
  • Flight is not "going about one's business": While refusal to cooperate doesn't provide reasonable suspicion, flight is more than just "going about one's business"
COMMENTS:
  • To sum up Wardlow, high crime area + flight = reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop.

 

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