What Is Considered a Police Officer Seizure ?
A person is seized when an officer restrains that person's liberty by physical force or that person submits to an officer's show of authority. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n.16, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968).
Not every encounter between a police officer and citizens constitutes a seizure. See id.
A seizure does not occur when a police officer merely questions an individual or asks to examine an individual's identification. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434, 115 L. Ed. 2d 389, 111 S. Ct. 2382 (1991).
Whether a seizure has actually occurred depends on if a reasonable person in that situation would believe that he or she was not free to leave. See United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554, 64 L. Ed. 2d 497, 100 S. Ct. 1870 (1980).
In California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 113 L. Ed. 2d 690, 111 S. Ct. 1547 (1991) a group of youths were huddled around a car but panicked and fled at the sight of an unmarked police car. See id. at 622-623.
Hodari ran into an alley but was intercepted by the police officer chasing after him. When Hodari first saw the officer chasing after him, he tossed away a small rock, which turned out to be crack cocaine. See 499 U.S. at 623.
The officer immediately tackled and arrested him.
Hodari argued for the suppression of the drug evidence because it was the fruit of an illegal seizure. He contended that he had been seized when he saw the officer running after him. See id.
The Court disagreed, concluding that Hodari was not seized until he was tackled. See 499 U.S. at 629.
It reasoned that neither physical force nor submission to a show of authority had occurred before Hodari abandoned the drugs. See id. at 625-626.
It rejected Hodari's argument that the officer's pursuit and calling upon him to halt qualified as a show of authority, reasoning as follows:
The word "seizure" readily bears the meaning of a laying on of hands or application of physical force to restrain movement, even when it is ultimately unsuccessful. ("She seized the purse-snatcher, but he broke out of her grasp.")
It does not remotely apply, however, to the prospect of a policeman yelling "Stop, in the name of the law!" at a fleeing form that continues to flee.
That is no seizure. Nor can the result respondent wishes to achieve be produced-indirectly, as it were-by suggesting that the officer's uncomplied-with show of authority was a common-law arrest, and then appealing to the principle that all common-law arrests are seizures.
An arrest requires either physical force (as described above) or, where that is absent, submission to the assertion of authority. 499 U.S. at 626.
For example, the United States v. Angell, 11 F.3d 806, 809 (8th Cir. 1993), court held that an officer's command that an individual should "stay there" or "hold it right there" was not a show of authority.
Although the command indicated that the individual should remain where he or she was so the officer could speak to him or her, the court evaluated the totality of the circumstances and determined that the situation was still a consensual encounter and not a seizure.
Of particular interest to the present case, the court noted, "Had the officer couched his request in more indirect language, such as, say, 'Could I talk to you guys a minute,' or 'Would you hold up a minute, please,' there would be no question about the consensual nature of the subsequent conversation ...." Id.