443 U.S. 47 (1979), 77-6673, Brown v. Texas

Docket Nº:No. 77-6673
Citation:443 U.S. 47, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 61 L.Ed.2d 357
Party Name:Brown v. Texas
Case Date:June 25, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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443 U.S. 47 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 2637, 61 L.Ed.2d 357

Brown

v.

Texas

No. 77-6673

United States Supreme Court

June 25, 1979

Argued February 21, 1979

APPEAL FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW No. 2,

EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS

Syllabus

Two police officers, while cruising near noon in a patrol car, observed appellant and another man walking away from one another in an alley in an area with a high incidence of drug traffic. They stopped and asked appellant to identify himself and explain what he was doing. One officer testified that he stopped appellant because the situation "looked suspicious, and we had never seen that subject in that area before." The officers did not claim to suspect appellant of any specific misconduct, nor did they have any reason to believe that he was armed. When appellant refused to identify himself, he was arrested for violation of a Texas statute which makes it a criminal act for a person to refuse to give his name and address to an officer "who has lawfully stopped him and requested the information." Appellant's motion to set aside an information charging him with violation of the statute on the ground that the statute violated the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments was denied, and he was convicted and fined.

Held: The application of the Texas statute to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe that appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Detaining appellant to require him to identify himself constituted a seizure [99 S.Ct. 2639] of his person subject to the requirement of the Fourth Amendment that the seizure be "reasonable." Cf. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1; United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873. The Fourth Amendment requires that such a seizure be based on specific, objective facts indicating that society's legitimate interests require such action, or that the seizure be carried out pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648. Here, the State does not contend that appellant was stopped pursuant to a practice embodying neutral criteria, and the officers' actions were not justified on the ground that they had a reasonable suspicion, based on objective facts, that he was involved in criminal activity. Absent any basis for suspecting appellant of misconduct, the balance between the public interest in crime prevention and appellant's right to personal

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security and privacy tilts in favor of freedom from police interference.

Pp. 50-53.

Reversed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal presents the question whether appellant was validly convicted for refusing to comply with a policeman's demand that he identify himself pursuant to a provision of the Texas Penal Code which makes it a crime to refuse such identification on request.

At 12:45 in the afternoon of December 9, 1977, Officers Venegas and Sotelo of the El Paso Police Department were cruising in a patrol car. They observed appellant and another man walking in opposite directions away from one another in an alley. Although the two men were a few feet apart when they first were seen, Officer Venegas later testified that both officers believed the two had been together or were about to meet until the patrol car appeared.

The car entered the alley, and Officer Venegas got out and asked appellant to identify himself and explain what he was

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doing there. The other man was not questioned or detained. The officer testified that he stopped appellant because the situation "looked suspicious, and we had never seen that subject in that area before." The area of El Paso where appellant was stopped has a high incidence of drug traffic. However, the officers did not claim to suspect appellant of any specific misconduct, nor did they have any reason to...

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