Earlier this week, the Mississippi Supreme Court reminded us of the warnings we all used to hear as kids- –
“Walk, Don’t Run.”
In this new case, our State Supreme Court ruled that it is okay to walk away from the police, but there will be no running. After receiving an anonymous tip that a group of “young black men” were selling drugs on a corner, a Greenville police officer drove to the scene and tried to stop the first young black male he encountered. He flashed his blue lights and commanded that the young man come talk to him. The MSSC held that neither the anonymous tip nor the observed activity was sufficient to create probable cause for a Terry Stop (a brief detention of a person officers are permitted to make if they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is about to be committed).
The Mississippi Court noted that the United States Supreme Court has previously held that where an officer lacks reasonable suspicion or probable cause and approaches an individual, that “individual has the right to ignore the police and go about his business.” As the Court noted “any refusal to cooperate, without more, does not furnish the minimal level of objective justification needed for a detention or seizure.” However, “going about your business” apparently does not extend to rapidly moving in a direction that generally takes you away from the officer. If you run away from the officer, rather than simply ignoring him, that is evidence of evasion and therefore provides the required suspicion to detain. “Headlong flight – wherever it occurs – is the consummate act of evasion: It is not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing, but it is certainly suggestive of such.” Since the suspect in this case ran rather than walked away from the officer, the subsequent arrest for possession of drugs was valid, even though the officer had no right to detain him initially.
Maybe all those constant warnings we received from our parents, teachers and lifeguards were more helpful that we ever appreciated at the time.
Here’s the Full Opinion:
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF MISSISSIPPI NO. 2012-CT-00460-SCT TAZARIUS COOPER a/k/a T.C.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI