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Case Brief

California vs. Hodari D. 499 U.S. 621, 111 S. Ct. 1547, 113 L. Ed. 2d 690 (1991)

Judicial History

The petitioner had been charged in the juvenile court with the possession of crack cocaine. He moved a motion to disallow the use of evidence associated with the cocaine, which was repudiated. However, the CA Court of Appeal overturned the ruling that Pertoso had “seized” Hodari during the chase. They held that the seizure was unreasonable in relation to the 4th Amendment as Pertoso lacked reasonable suspicion needed for the justification of stopping Hodari. Hence, the evidence of cocaine had to be suppressed as it was a result of the unlawful seizure. The ruling by the Court of Appeal was final.


The petitioner was in a group of youths who fled after spotting the police who were dressed in casual clothes and drove an unmarked vehicle. However, they wore jackets that had the word “Police” inscribed both at the front and at the back. They fled towards different directions and one of the policemen gave chase on foot and ordered the petitioner to stop. However, the petitioner ignored the order, continued fleeing and discarded a rock, which was later identified as crack cocaine. The petitioner did not see the Pertoso until he was almost upon him. The police officer tacked and hand cuffed him before calling for assistance. During the juvenile proceedings, the petitioner was not allowed the motion to suppress the evidence relating to the cocaine, but the ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court citing illegality of the seizure according to the 4th Amendment.


In regard to the show of authority as with respect to the application of physical force, does a seizure occur even in a situation where the subject fails to oblige, which, in relation to the provisions of the 4th Amendment would constitute an illegal seizure?


Whitehead vs. Keyes, 85 Mass. 495, 501 (1862) an officer makes an arrest of a person in a situation where he possesses the right to arrest by placing his hand on him in order to make the arrest, although it may fail to succeed.

Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457, 471 (1874), a seizure is one act and not an unremitting fact.

Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19, n.1 (1968), a seizure takes place when an officer has in some way controlled the freedom of an individual through physical strength or expression of authority.

United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980) When the actions taken by an officer or a suspect are vague, a seizure can only take place if the circumstances indicate that a reasonable person would have believed that they lacked the freedom to leave without the officer’s authorization.


Earlier on, when a person’s freedom was restrained through the manifestation of power or physical force, it used to be a seizure. However, in the case, it was argued that an officer’s expression of power did not amount to seizure. It was just a necessary condition towards the seizure of an individual. The ruling also involved the consultation of the dictionary for the meaning of the word seizure. However, it resulted to the disregard of years of Supreme Court jurisprudence, which did not take the literal meaning of a dictionary. The ruling indicated that regardless of the actions by the police, seizure for the purpose of the 4th Amendment relied on the actions of the suspect, as fleeing would indicate that no seizure had taken place, but submission would amount to seizure. Therefore, according to the ruling, as long as a person is fleeing from the police, they have not been arrested.


The court held “NO” to the presented issue. A person’s seizure cannot occur until the individual is physically seized, either via expression of authority or submission.

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