Can I Be Arrested Simply for Running from Police?

running from police, Supreme Court, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyWhile the death of a young Baltimore man in police custody a few weeks ago caused extreme levels of civil unrest around the city, one of the frequently overlooked aspects of the case was that the man’s initial arrest was preceded by his running from an interaction with the police. Obviously, the police department’s handling of the man’s arrest and his subsequent death are more significant concerns, and the officers involved have been indicted. However, the circumstances leading up to his arrest pose the question: Is running from the police prior to being stopped against the law?

An individual cannot be arrested on the grounds of running from the police. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure of property, and allows a person to go about his business or remain silent during an investigatory police stop. While running from police is not against the law, however, there are situations in which running may lead to additional problems for a person who makes that choice.

Police officers are legally permitted to conduct an investigative stop, sometimes called a Terry stop, in reference to a U.S. Supreme Court case entitled Terry v. Ohio, if there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion for the stop does not rise to the level, necessarily, of probable cause that is needed for arrest, but the stop may allow law enforcement to move from reasonable suspicion to probable cause as a result of what the officer finds.

Courts have been very mixed on whether running from police creates an acceptable level of reasonable suspicion to justify a stop of the individual. As stated above, running is not a crime, but it may give the impression that criminal activity exists. However, the United States Supreme Court decided, in a case involving the arrest of a Chicago man, that all factors, including an individual’s decision to run and the atmosphere of criminal activity in the vicinity, may be included in an officer’s determination of reasonable suspicion.

Thus, a person who runs from police in a high-crime area may produce the reasonable suspicion that he or she was involved in criminal activity. He or she is often able to be stopped, and the results of the stop may lead to his or her arrest. There are many concerns that a double-standard exists in this regard, and that allowing stops on the basis of running from the police in higher-crime areas unfairly targets minority groups.

If you have been arrested following an incident of running from police, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Rolling Meadows. We will review your case thoroughly and help you understand your options in protecting your rights. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

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