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    This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.

98-1036 on Nov 2, 1999

Decided Jan 12, 2000
Case Ruling: ILLINOIS v. WARDLOW
Respondent Wardlow fled upon seeing police vehicles converge on an area of Chicago known for heavy narcotics trafficking. When Officers caught up with him on the street, they conducted a protective pat-down search for weapons because in their experience there were usually weapons in the vicinity of narcotics transactions. Discovering a handgun, the officers arrested Wardlow. The State Supreme Court overturned Wardlow’s conviction, determining that sudden flight in a high crime area does not create a reasonable suspicion justifying a stop because flight may simply be an exercise of the right to “go on one’s way.”

Held:

(Rehnquist, joined by O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas)
The officers’ actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment. An officer who has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot may conduct a brief, investigatory stop. While “reasonable suspicion” is a less demanding standard than probable cause, there must be at least a minimal level of objective justification for the stop. An individual’s presence in a “high crime area” is not enough, but in this case, it was also Wardlow’s unprovoked flight that aroused the officers’ suspicion. Nervous, evasive behavior is another pertinent factor in determining reasonable suspicion.

Dissent:

(Stevens, joined by Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer)
Illinois asks for authorizing the temporary detention of anyone who flees at the mere sight of a police officer. Respondent Wardlow counters by asking us to adopt the opposite rule--that the fact that a person flees upon seeing the police can never, by itself, be sufficient to justify a temporary investigative stop.

Although I agree with the Court’s rejection of both rules proffered by the parties, unlike the Court, I am persuaded that in this case the brief testimony of the officer who seized respondent does not justify the conclusion that he had reasonable suspicion to make the stop.


    Participating counts on VoteMatch question 9. Question 9: Stricter punishment reduces crime Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
  • Topic: Crime
  • Headline: Fleeing the police is reasonable grounds for a search (Score: 1)
  • Headline 2: Fleeing police is not in itself sufficient to allow search (Score: -1)

  • Key for participation codes:
  • Sponsorships: p=sponsored; o=co-sponsored; s=signed
  • Memberships: c=chair; m=member; e=endorsed; f=profiled; s=scored
  • Resolutions: i=introduced; w=wrote; a=adopted
  • Cases: w=wrote; j=joined; d=dissented; c=concurred
  • Surveys: '+' supports; '-' opposes.



Democrats participating in 98-1036

Stephen Breyer j2dUS Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg j2dUS Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 



Republicans participating in 98-1036

Anthony Kennedy j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Sandra Day O`Connor j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2005) 
William Rehnquist w1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (until 2005) 
Antonin Scalia j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
David Souter j2dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2009) 
John Paul Stevens w2dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2010) 
Clarence Thomas j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 



Independents participating in 98-1036



Total recorded by OnTheIssues:

Democrats: 2
Republicans: 7
Independents: 0


















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