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Brown v. Texas

U.S.
Jun 25, 1979
443 U.S. 47 (1979)

Summary

holding that without reasonable suspicion, police may not require citizens to stop and identify themselves

Summary of this case from Rynearson v. United States

Opinion

APPEAL FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 2, EL PASO COUNTY, TEXAS

No. 77-6673.

Argued February 21, 1979. Decided June 25, 1979.

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 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 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.

Raymond C. Caballero argued the cause and filed a brief for appellant.

Renea Hicks, Assistant Attorney General of Texas, argued the cause for appellee pro hac vice. With him on the brief were Mark White, Attorney General, John W. Fainter, Jr., First Assistant Attorney General, and Ted L. Hartley, Executive Assistant Attorney General.

Evelle J. Younger, Attorney General, Jack R. Winkler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Daniel J. Kremer, Assistant Attorney General, and Karl Phaler, Deputy Attorney General, filed a brief for the State of California as amicus curiae.


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.

I

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 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 believe that he was armed.

Appellant refused to identify himself and angrily asserted that the officers had no right to stop him. Officer Venegas replied that he was in a "high drug problem area"; Officer Sotelo then "frisked" appellant, but found nothing.

When appellant continued to refuse to identify himself, he was arrested for violation of Tex. Penal Code Ann., Tit. 8, § 38.02(a) (1974), 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." Following the arrest the officers searched appellant; nothing untoward was found.

The entire section reads as follows: "§ 38.02. Failure to Identify as Witness "(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to report or gives a false report of his name and residence address to a peace officer who has lawfully stopped him and requested the information."

While being taken to the El Paso County Jail appellant identified himself. Nonetheless, he was held in custody and charged with violating § 38.02(a). When he was booked he was routinely searched a third time. Appellant was convicted in the El Paso Municipal Court and fined $20 plus court costs for violation of § 38.02. He then exercised his right under Texas law to a trial de novo in the El Paso County Court. There, he moved to set aside the information on the ground that § 38.02(a) of the Texas Penal Code violated the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments and was unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The motion was denied. Appellant waived a jury, and the court convicted him and imposed a fine of $45 plus court costs.

Under Texas law an appeal from an inferior court to a county court is subject to further review only if a fine exceeding $100 is imposed. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 4.03 (Vernon 1977). Accordingly, the County Court's rejection of appellant's constitutional claims was a decision "by the highest court of a State in which a decision could be had." 28 U.S.C. § 1257 (2). On appeal here we noted probable jurisdiction. 439 U.S. 909 (1978). We reverse.

II

When the officers detained appellant for the purpose of requiring him to identify himself, they performed a seizure of his person subject to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. In convicting appellant, the County Court necessarily found as a matter of fact that the officers "lawfully stopped" appellant. See Tex. Penal Code Ann., Tit. 8, § 38.02 (1974). The Fourth Amendment, of course, "applies to all seizures of the person, including seizures that involve only a brief detention short of traditional arrest. Davis v. Mississippi, 394 U.S. 721 (1969); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16-19 (1968). `[W]henever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has "seized" that person,' id., at 16, and the Fourth Amendment requires that the seizure be `reasonable.'" United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878 (1975).

The reasonableness of seizures that are less intrusive than a traditional arrest, see Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 209-210 (1979); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968), depends "on a balance between the public interest and the individual's right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers." Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 109 (1977); United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 878. Consideration of the constitutionality of such seizures involves a weighing of the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty. See, e. g., 422 U.S., at 878-883.

A central concern in balancing these competing considerations in a variety of settings has been to assure that an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy is not subject to arbitrary invasions solely at the unfettered discretion of officers in the field. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654-655 (1979); United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 882. To this end, the Fourth Amendment requires that a seizure must be based on specific, objective facts indicating that society's legitimate interests require the seizure of the particular individual, or that the seizure must be carried out pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual officers. Delaware v. Prouse, supra, at 663. See United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 558-562 (1976).

The State does not contend that appellant was stopped pursuant to a practice embodying neutral criteria, but rather maintains that the officers were justified in stopping appellant because they had a "reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime had just been, was being, or was about to be committed." We have recognized that in some circumstances an officer may detain a suspect briefly for questioning although he does not have "probable cause" to believe that the suspect is involved in criminal activity, as is required for a traditional arrest. United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 880-881. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, at 25-26. However, we have required the officers to have a reasonable suspicion, based on objective facts, that the individual is involved in criminal activity. Delaware v. Prouse, supra, at 663; United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 882-883; see also Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451 (1939).

The flaw in the State's case is that none of the circumstances preceding the officers' detention of appellant justified a reasonable suspicion that he was involved in criminal conduct. Officer Venegas testified at appellant's trial that the situation in the alley "looked suspicious," but he was unable to point to any facts supporting that conclusion. There is no indication in the record that it was unusual for people to be in the alley. The fact that appellant was in a neighborhood frequented by drug users, standing alone, is not a basis for concluding that appellant himself was engaged in criminal conduct. In short, the appellant's activity was no different from the activity of other pedestrians in that neighborhood. When pressed, Officer Venegas acknowledged that the only reason he stopped appellant was to ascertain his identity. The record suggests an understandable desire to assert a police presence; however, that purpose does not negate Fourth Amendment guarantees.

This situation is to be distinguished from the observations of a trained, experienced police officer who is able to perceive and articulate meaning in given conduct which would be wholly innocent to the untrained observer. See United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 884-885 (1975); Christensen v. United States, 104 U.S.App.D.C. 35, 36, 259 F.2d 192, 193 (1958).

In the absence of any basis for suspecting appellant of misconduct, the balance between the public interest and appellant's right to personal security and privacy tilts in favor of freedom from police interference. The Texas statute under which appellant was stopped and required to identify himself is designed to advance a weighty social objective in large metropolitan centers: prevention of crime. But even assuming that purpose is served to some degree by stopping and demanding identification from an individual without any specific basis for believing he is involved in criminal activity, the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment do not allow it. When such a stop is not based on objective criteria, the risk of arbitrary and abusive police practices exceeds tolerable limits. See Delaware v. Prouse, supra, at 661.

The application of Tex. Penal Code Ann., Tit. 8, § 38.02 (1974), to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Accordingly, appellant may not be punished for refusing to identify himself, and the conviction is

We need not decide whether an individual may be punished for refusing to identify himself in the context of a lawful investigatory stop which satisfies Fourth Amendment requirements. See Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 210 n. 12 (1979); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 34 (1968) (WHITE, J., concurring). The County Court Judge who convicted appellant was troubled by this question, as shown by the colloquy set out in the Appendix to this opinion.

Reversed.

APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT

"THE COURT: . . . What do you think about if you stop a person lawfully, and then if he doesn't want to talk to you, you put him in jail for committing a crime.

"MR. PATTON [Prosecutor]: Well first of all, I would question the Defendant's statement in his motion that the First Amendment gives an individual the right to silence.

"THE COURT: . . . I'm asking you why should the State put you in jail because you don't want to say anything.

"MR. PATTON: Well, I think there's certain interests that have to be viewed.

"THE COURT: Okay, I'd like you to tell me what those are.

"MR. PATTON: Well, the Governmental interest to maintain the safety and security of the society and the citizens to live in the society, and there are certainly strong Governmental interests in that direction and because of that, these interests outweigh the interests of an individual for a certain amount of intrusion upon his personal liberty. I think these Governmental interests outweigh the individual's interests in this respect, as far as simply asking an individual for his name and address under the proper circumstances.

"THE COURT: But why should it be a crime to not answer?

"MR. PATTON: Again, I can only contend that if an answer is not given, it tends to disrupt.

"THE COURT: What does it disrupt?

"MR. PATTON: I think it tends to disrupt the goal of this society to maintain security over its citizens to make sure they are secure in their gains and their homes.

"THE COURT: How does that secure anybody by forcing them, under penalty of being prosecuted, to giving their name and address, even though they are lawfully stopped?

"MR. PATTON: Well I, you know, under the circumstances in which some individuals would be lawfully stopped, it's presumed that perhaps this individual is up to something, and the officer is doing his duty simply to find out the individual's name and address, and to determine what exactly is going on.

"THE COURT: I'm not questioning, I'm not asking whether the officer shouldn't ask questions. I'm sure they should ask everything they possibly could find out. What I'm asking is what's the State's interest in putting a man in jail because he doesn't want to answer something. I realize lots of times an officer will give a defendant a Miranda warning which means a defendant doesn't have to make a statement. Lots of defendants go ahead and confess, which is fine if they want to do that. But if they don't confess, you can't put them in jail, can you, for refusing to confess to a crime?" App. 15-17 (emphasis added).


Summaries of

Brown v. Texas

U.S.
Jun 25, 1979
443 U.S. 47 (1979)

holding that without reasonable suspicion, police may not require citizens to stop and identify themselves

Summary of this case from Rynearson v. United States

holding that presence in high-crime neighborhood alone is insufficient to justify stop

Summary of this case from United States v. Griffin

holding that officers did not have reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop when they detained two men who were walking away from each other in an alley in an area known for drug trafficking because "the . . . activity was no different from the activity of other pedestrians in that neighborhood"

Summary of this case from Moreno v. Baca

holding that an investigatory stop was not justified when police officers detained two men walking away from each other in an alley in an area with a high rate of drug trafficking because "the appellant's activity was no different from the activity of other pedestrians in that neighborhood"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Montero-Camargo

holding that § 38.02 as drafted by the 1974 legislature was unconstitutional because it allowed an officer to stop and demand identification of an individual "without any specific basis or belief that he [was] involved in criminal activity", 443 U.S. at 52, 99 S.Ct. at 2641

Summary of this case from Presley v. City of Benbrook

holding that a person could not be required to furnish identification if not reasonably suspected of any criminal conduct

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holding that absent some reasonable suspicion of misconduct, the detention of the defendant to determine his identity violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure

Summary of this case from United States v. Gomez

holding that officers did not have reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop when they detained two men who were walking away from each other in an alley in an area known for drug trafficking because "the ... activity was no different from the activity of other pedestrians in that neighborhood"

Summary of this case from Harmon v. Cnty. of Sacramento

holding that an investigatory stop was not justified when police officers detained two men walking away from each other in an alley in an area with a high rate of drug trafficking because "the appellant's activity was no different from the activity of other pedestrians in that neighborhood"

Summary of this case from Chavez v. United States

holding that an investigatory stop was not justified when police officers detained two men walking away from each other in an alley in an area with a high rate of drug trafficking because "the appellant's activity was no different from the activity of other pedestrians in that neighborhood"

Summary of this case from Gutierrez v. City of Woodland

holding that the application of a Texas statute criminalizing the failure to provide a name and address when lawfully stopped by police violated the petitioner's Fourth Amendment rights because, in that case, the officers lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct and had stopped the petitioner only in order to ascertain his identity

Summary of this case from Fillmore v. City of Osage City

holding that a person's presence in a high crime area is an insufficient basis for a reasonable articulable suspicion to detain an individual under the Fourth Amendment

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holding that a stop was improper where officers asked a "suspicious-looking" man to identify himself without any other articulable basis to suspect wrongdoing

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Breckenridge

holding that the reasonableness of seizures that are less intrusive than an arrest depend "on a balance between the public interest and the individual's right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Hart

holding that application of statute to detain Brown and require him to identify himself violated Fourth Amendment because officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe he was committing or had committed a crime

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Pollard

holding that an area's reputation for criminal activity alone cannot justify an investigatory stop

Summary of this case from U.S. v. McCray

holding that police officers who saw the defendant and another man walking away from each another in an alley in a "high drug problem area" did not have reasonable suspicion to stop and question the defendant

Summary of this case from State v. Diede

holding that unless an officer can prove that he or she has a specific basis or belief that an individual was involved in criminal activity, their detention will be deemed unconstitutional

Summary of this case from St. George v. State

holding that defendant's presence in neighborhood frequented by drug users was not, in and of itself, a basis for concluding he was engaged in criminal conduct

Summary of this case from State v. Nicholson

holding that application of a Texas statute permitting detention and requiring identification violates the Fourth Amendment if officers lack reasonable suspicion for the detention

Summary of this case from State v. Hicks

holding there must be a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity for officers to detain an individual to produce identifying information under a state statute

Summary of this case from Kronemer v. Commonwealth

holding that presence in a high-crime area, "standing alone, is not a basis for concluding that [a defendant] was engaged in criminal conduct"

Summary of this case from State v. Miller

holding nighttime not per se sufficient to give rise to reasonable suspicion

Summary of this case from Jolivette v. State

holding the court must balance “the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest”

Summary of this case from State v. Vickery

holding the court must balance "the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest"

Summary of this case from State v. Vickery
Case details for

Brown v. Texas

Case Details

Full title:BROWN v . TEXAS

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jun 25, 1979

Citations

443 U.S. 47 (1979)
99 S. Ct. 2637

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