California v. Hodari D.

LOCATION:Where police chase began

DOCKET NO.: 89-1632
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 499 US 621 (1991)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1991
DECIDED: Apr 23, 1991
GRANTED: Oct 01, 1990

Clifford M. Sloan – on behalf of United States, as amicus curiae, in support of the Petitioner
James L. Lozenski – on behalf of the Respondent
Ronald E. Niver – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Two police officers dressed in street clothes and wearing jackets with the word “Police” on the front and back were on patrol in Oakland, California in an unmarked car. As they approached a group of youths near Foothill Blvd. and 63rd Ave., the youths panicked and ran. One of the officers left the car and ran after Hodari D. Hodari tossed away something that looked like a small rock just before the officer tackled him and handcuffed him. The officer retrieved the rock, which turned out to be crack cocaine.

At trial, Hodari moved to suppress evidence relating to the cocaine, arguing that the officer obtained it during an unlawful search and seizure. The trial court denied the motion. The California Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Hodari was “seized” when he saw the officer running towards him and that seizure was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The California Supreme Court denied the state’s application for review.


(1) Has a person who is not under the physical control of a police officer been “seized” under the Fourth Amendment when the officer is chasing that person?

(2) Can a person who is pursued by a police officer avoid prosecution by discarding incriminating evidence and asserting that he did so out of fear of an unlawful search?

Media for California v. Hodari D.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 14, 1991 in California v. Hodari D.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 23, 1991 in California v. Hodari D.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 89-1632, California against Hodari D. will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals of California First Appellate District.

Late one evening, two police officers were cruising in a high crime area of Oakland, California.

As they turned the corner, they noticed a group of youth huddled around a car.

When the youth saw the officers’ car approaching, they fled as did the car around which they had been congregated.

Some of them ran further down the same street pursued by one of the officers in the car.

Two of them including respondent, Hodari D. run into an alley which lead over to the next street.

The second officer, having left the car, run back up to the top of the street over the next street where the alley came out and back down towards the alley.

He found himself running directly at Hodari who did not see him at first because Hodari was looking behind as he ran.

About 11 feet from the officer, Hodari turned and saw the officer and at that point threw away some drugs.

The officer then tackled Hodari and the drugs were retrieved by the police.

In a juvenile proceeding brought against Hodari, the court refused to suppress evidence of the abandoned drugs.

The California Court of Appeal reversed.

In that court’s view, Hodari was seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment when he was chased and the seizure was unreasonable because the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct that would justify a stop.

The California Supreme Court refused review and we granted certiorari.

In an opinion filed today, we reverse the judgment of the California Court of Appeal.

We assume for purposes of this case that the officer who chased Hodari had no reasonable suspicion.

The only question before us is when, for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, Hodari was actually seized.

If he was seized before he disposed of the drugs, the police’s obtaining of the drugs could be viewed as the product of the unlawful seizure in which case the drugs were excludable at trial.

If he was seized after he disposed of the drugs, they were unquestionably admissible in so far as federal law is concerned.

As used in the Fourth Amendment, a seizure when applied to seizure of the person referred to an arrest.

At common law, an arrest could be affected in only two ways.

Either by physically grasping the person, the slightest touching would suffice, or by the person’s voluntary submission to a show of authority.

Here, there was neither.

The officer made no physical contact with Hodari until after he had dropped the drugs, and Hodari had not yielded to any show of authority but was in full flight.

He had not been arrested.

He had not been seized.

The police’s possession of the drugs was therefore not the product of an unlawful seizure and they could, consistently with federal law, be admitted in the juvenile proceeding below.

Accordingly, the judgment of the California Court of Appeal is reversed.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Marshall joins.