Michigan v. Chesternut

RESPONDENT: Michael Mose Chesternut
LOCATION: Eastern Michigan District Court in Detroit

DOCKET NO.: 86-1824
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)

CITATION: 486 US 567 (1988)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1988
DECIDED: Jun 13, 1988
GRANTED: Oct 13, 1978

Andrea L. Solak - for the petitioner
Carole M. Stanyar - for the respondent

Facts of the case

On December 19, 1984, Michael Mose Chesternut noticed the police car that was driven toward him; then he began to run. After that the police officer drove out on some distance that he could not see them, here suspected got rid of the several large packages. The policemen assumed that they contained the cocaine and that was proven after they observed them. After that the police followed and arrested Cherstrnut and exercised the examination, they also found heroin and a hypodermic needle.

Cherstrnut was accused of the possession of the drugs that was prohibited by Michigan Law and condemned in this crime.

The district court affirmed that the condemnation was unlawful as the policemen were not empowered to conduct accused`s seize. The Court of Appeal confirmed the previous judicial opinion and added that the freedom of defendant was limited because of the examination without the legal permit on it.

Michigan appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that the officer didn`t infringe the Fourth Amendment conducting the seizure of the pursuant, who was suspected in the criminal actions.

The Supreme Court upheld that the seizure in appropriate conditions was not prohibited under the constitution norms. The division line whether the examination was contradicted with the Constitution was grounded on the rule whether the person considered rationally and objectively that the police restricted his freedom that he could not depart. Accordingly, to reasonable man rule Cherstnut was not examined without substantial grounds that was the fact that he got rid of the packages.


Does a police officer violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against seizures when he pursues a citizen without an objective basis for suspecting him of criminal activity? 

Media for Michigan v. Chesternut

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1988 in Michigan v. Chesternut

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 13, 1988 in Michigan v. Chesternut

Harry A. Blackmun:

In the second case, Michigan versus Chesternut, this comes to us from the Court of Appeals of Michigan.

The respondent, Mr. Chesternut was observing the approach of a Detroit police car on routine patrol.

He began to run and the car followed him and drove alongside him for a short distance and the officers observed Chesternut discarding a number of packets.

The police surmise that the pills subsequently discovered in those packets contained codeine and respondent was arrested and the search of his person revealed other drugs and a hypodermic needle, and he was charged with violations of the Michigan drug laws.

At a preliminary hearing, the Magistrate dismissed the charges on the ground that Chesternut had been unlawfully seized during the police pursuit.

And the trial court upheld that dismissal and the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed under precedents interpreting the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

The Court also concluded that respondent's flight was insufficient by itself to give rise to the particular suspicion necessary to justify this kind of seizure.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse that judgment and remand the case.

We hold that the officer's pursuit did not constitute a seizure implicating Fourth Amendment protections.

And thus the charges were improperly dismissed.

We feel that no bright-line rule for all investigatory pursuits can be fashioned.

The appropriate test instead is whether a reasonable man viewing the particular police conduct and within the setting of all the circumstances would have concluded that the police in some way had restrained his liberty so that he was not free to leave.

And under this test, respondent was not seized before he discarded the drug packets.

The police conduct here, that is a brief acceleration to catch up with him and followed by a short drive alongside him, would not have communicated to the reasonable person and attempt to capture him or otherwise intrude upon his freedom of movement.

The police therefore were not required to have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting respondent of criminal activity in order to pursue him.

The decision is unanimous but Justice Kennedy joined by Justice Scalia has filed a separate concurring opinion.