Illinois v. Wardlow 528 U.S. 119, 120 S. Ct. 673, 145 L. Ed.2d 570 (2000)
áThe police were driving through an area known for a lot of drug
trafficking. Wardlow saw the police looking at him from their patrol car and
The police, figuring they had reasonable
suspicion that Wardlow was doing
something illegal, ran after him, caught him and performed a stop
and frisk. They found he was carrying
a concealed pistol.
Wardlow was arrested and
charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
The Trial Court convicted
Wardlow. He appealed.
Wardlow argued that the
police had no probable cause to
search him, since running away from the police is not evidence of any
illegal activity. Therefore the search was unreasonable and a violation
of the 4th Amendment.
The Illinois Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Wardlow appealed.
The US Supreme Court upheld
The US Supreme Court noted
that a person's presence in an area of expected criminal activity, is not
enough to support a reasonable particularized suspicion that the person
is committing a crime.
However, that, combined with
Wardlow's unprovoked flight from the police was enough to create reasonable
"Headlong flight is
not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing, but it is certainly suggestive
argued that there might be any number of innocent reasons for fleeing the
police. However, the Court found that based on the balancing test for stop
and frisk established in Terry v.
Ohio (392 U.S. 1 (1968)), there was no violation of the 4th
Amendment. The stop was still
justified even if there were innocent explanations.
In a concurrence, it was
argued that there shouldn't be a bright-line rule that unprovoked flight
from the police automatically establishes reasonable suspicion. Instead, the courts should apply a totality
of the circumstances test in each case and look at a number of factors to
see if there was reasonable suspicion or not.