Cal.4: Flight alone isn’t RS; the innocent may flee, too

Flight alone isn’t reasonable suspicion on the totality. More is required, and here there wasn’t any. Flight alone is not reasonable suspicion because innocent people may flee for fear of being caught up in something they didn’t do. People v. Flores, 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 740 (4th Dist. Aug. 12, 2019):

Assessing the situation from the officers’ perspective, the totality of the circumstances—the bag, the high crime area, and the known heavy narcotics trafficking in that area—put the defendant’s flight from the officers in an extremely suspicious light. “It was in this context that [the officer] decided to investigate [the defendant] after observing him flee.” (Wardlow, supra, 528 U.S. at p. 124.) Finding the detention lawful, the court noted “[h]eadlong flight—wherever it occurs—is the consummate act of evasion: It is not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing, but it is certainly suggestive of such.” (Ibid.)

Nonetheless, the high court also has a long history of recognizing that innocent people may reasonably flee from police: “[I]t is a matter of common knowledge that men who are entirely innocent do sometimes fly from the scene of a crime through fear of being apprehended as the guilty parties, or from an unwillingness to appear as witnesses. Nor is it true as an accepted axiom of criminal law that ‘the wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.’ Innocent men sometimes hesitate to confront a jury; not necessarily because they fear that the jury will not protect them, but because they do not wish their names to appear in connection with criminal acts, are humiliated at being obliged to incur the popular odium of an arrest and trial, or because they do not wish to be put to the annoyance or expense of defending themselves.” (Alberty v. United States (1896) 162 U.S. 499, 511; see also Souza, supra, 9 Cal.4th at p. 243 (conc. opn. of Mosk, J.) [noting the “unfortunate reality that some individuals in our society, often members of minority groups, improperly view the police more as sources of harassment than of protection. These individuals may innocently flee at the first sight of police in order to avoid an encounter that their experience has taught them might be troublesome”].)

Thus, the Supreme Court has never endorsed a per se rule that flight establishes reasonable suspicion to detain. Instead, flight is but one relevant factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis.

. . .

Wardlow fails to provide the People with the necessary support needed to justify defendant’s initial seizure. Consequently, the People failed to meet their burden to show specific, articulable grounds to justify detaining defendant. As such, the evidence obtained from defendant immediately following his detention was unlawfully obtained and should have been suppressed. (United States v. Crews (1980) 445 U.S. 463, 470, 471 [exclusionary rule sanction applies to any “‘fruits'” of a constitutional violation—”whether such evidence be tangible, physical material actually seized in an illegal search, items observed or words overheard in the course of the unlawful activity,” or “confessions or statements of the accused obtained during an illegal arrest and detention”].)

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