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Illinois v. Wardlow

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



Riding in four separate cars, police officers entered a high drug area of the city to investigate drug transactions. The officers in the last car of the caravan witnessed Wardlow (defendant) standing by a building holding an opaque bag. When Wardlow looked at the car he began running away, and the officers in the last car gave chase and caught him. One of the officers immediately conducted a pat-down to search for weapons. The officer felt something that appeared to be a weapon and when he removed it he discovered it was a handgun. Wardlow was arrested for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. The trial court held that the stop and frisk was lawful and allowed the gun to be introduced as evidence at trial. The court of appeals reversed Wardlow’s conviction, holding that the police had no reasonable suspicion to search Wardlow and the gun should have been suppressed. The state supreme court affirmed the court of appeals’ ruling and held that flight, even in a high crime area, does not amount to reasonable suspicion because it may be interpreted as an exercise of a citizen’s right to refuse to answer police questions when stopped on the street. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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