California v. Hodari D.,
499 U.S. 621 (1991)

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U.S. Supreme Court

California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621 (1991)

California v. Hodari D.

No. 89-1632

Argued Jan. 14, 1991

Decided April 23, 1991

499 U.S. 621


A group of youths, including respondent Hodari D., fled at the approach of an unmarked police car on an Oakland, California, street. Officer Pertoso, who was wearing a jacket with "Police" embossed on its front, left the car to give chase. Pertoso did not follow Hodari directly, but took a circuitous route that brought the two face to face on a parallel street. Hodari, however, was looking behind as he ran and did not turn to see Pertoso until the officer was almost upon him, whereupon Hodari tossed away a small rock. Pertoso tackled him, and the police recovered the rock, which proved to be crack cocaine. In the juvenile proceeding against Hodari, the court denied his motion to suppress the evidence relating to the cocaine. The State Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Hodari had been "seized" when he saw Pertoso running towards him; that this seizure was "unreasonable" under the Fourth Amendment, the State having conceded that Pertoso did not have the "reasonable suspicion" required to justify stopping Hodari; and therefore that the evidence of cocaine had to be suppressed as the fruit of the illegal seizure.

Held: The only issue presented here -- whether, at the time he dropped the drugs, Hodari had been "seized" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment -- must be answered in the negative. To answer this question, this Court looks to the common law of arrest. To constitute a seizure of the person, just as to constitute an arrest -- the quintessential "seizure of the person" under Fourth Amendment jurisprudence -- there must be either the application of physical force, however slight, or, where that is absent, submission to an officer's "show of authority" to restrain the subject's liberty. No physical force was applied in this case, since Hodari was untouched by Pertoso before he dropped the drugs. Moreover, assuming that Pertoso's pursuit constituted a "show of authority" enjoining Hodari to halt, Hodari did not comply with that injunction, and therefore was not seized until he was tackled. Thus, the cocaine abandoned while he was running was not the fruit of a seizure, cf. Brower v. Inyo County, 489 U. S. 593, 489 U. S. 597; Nester v. United States, 265 U. S. 57, 265 U. S. 58, and his motion to exclude evidence of it was properly denied. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U. S. 544, 446 U. S. 554 (opinion of Stewart, J.), and its progeny, distinguished. Pp. 499 U. S. 623-629.

Reversed and remanded.

Page 499 U. S. 622

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., joined and WHITE, BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 499 U. S. 629.

Primary Holding

Respondent was not "seized" within meaning of Fourth Amendment when he saw police officer running towards him, and thus cocaine he tossed away while being pursued was not fruit of a seizure and should not have been suppressed.

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