The Supreme Court Tuesday bolstered the power of police to chase people, even when officers have no "reasonable suspicion" to believe a crime was committed.
By a 7-2 vote, the justices ordered reinstatement of the cocaine possession conviction of a young California man named Hodari D., who fled at the sight of police and dropped a crack cocaine rock during the chase.Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said the cocaine may be used as evidence against Hodari.
Hodari D., now 19, was sentenced by a juvenile court to incarceration for five years and eight months for possessing cocaine with intent to sell. A state appeals court threw out his conviction.
The justices Tuesday said the state court was mistaken. The ruling from the high court is the latest in a string of decisions limiting the rights of people accused and convicted of crimes.
Scalia said the sole issue is whether Hodari D. had been "seized" when he dropped the cocaine.
The justice said that since police had not used physical force to restrain Hodari D. at the time the cocaine was dropped and the fleeing youth had not yet submitted to a show of authority by police, he had not been seized when he dropped the drugs.
Seconds later, he was seized when Pertoso tackled him.
Therefore, Scalia said, the abandoned cocaine was not recovered as the result of an illegal seizure.
Police generally must have a reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a crime before restraining the individual.
Justice John Paul Stevens, in a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Thurgood Marshall, called the ruling "a significant . . . unfortunate departure" from the protections the court traditionally has provided against police misconduct.
Stevens said the ruling could "encourage unlawful displays of force that will frighten countless innocent citizens into surrendering whatever privacy rights they may still have."
But Scalia said, "Street pursuits always place the public at some risk, and compliance with police orders to stop should therefore be encouraged."
In another case, the court upheld a federal labor rule that requires hospitals to let their employees organize into eight separate collective bargaining units, according to their jobs.