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United States v. Hensley

United States Supreme Court
469 U.S. 221, 105 S.Ct. 675, 83 L.Ed.2d 604 (1985)


On December 4, 1981, two armed men robbed a tavern. Six days later, a police officer learned from an informant that Thomas Hensley (defendant) drove the getaway car during the robbery. The officer issued a "wanted" flyer to other police departments in the area. The flyer included information that Hensley was wanted in connection with the investigation of an armed robbery, a description of the robbery's date and location, and a request that the other police departments pick up Hensley and hold him for the investigating police department. Officers at one of the police departments that received the flyer were familiar with Hensley. On December 16, 1981, an officer from that police department saw a car stopped in the middle of the street and saw Hensley in the driver's seat. The officer asked Hensley to "move on." After Hensley drove away, the officer radioed the dispatcher to determine whether there was a warrant out for Hensley's arrest. Two other officers answered before the dispatcher and said that there may be a warrant outstanding on Hensley for the robbery. Before the dispatcher was able to confirm whether a warrant had indeed been issued for Hensley, one of the officers reported seeing Hensley's car approaching him on the street. The officer turned on his flashing lights, and Hensley pulled over to the curb. The officer approached the car with his weapon drawn and ordered Hensley and a passenger out of the car. Another officer arrived on the scene and recognized Hensley's passenger as a convicted felon. The officer went to the open passenger door and saw the butt of a revolver under the passenger's seat. Officers then arrested Hensley's passenger. A search of the car revealed two additional handguns. Hensley was arrested and charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Hensley moved to suppress the weapons on the grounds that his stop violated the Fourth Amendment and the principles of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The district court denied the motion to suppress and convicted Hensley after a bench trial. The appellate court reversed the conviction. The court concluded that an investigative stop under Terry could pertain only to the investigation of an ongoing crime. Because the stop of Hensley occurred nearly two weeks after the robbery, the appellate court held that the officers did not have a reasonable suspicion to justify the investigative stop, and thus, the evidence against Hensley was obtained during an illegal arrest. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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