United States v. Mendenhall

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In United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980), Justice Potter Stewart wrote that a Fourth Amendment seizure occurs if "in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave," id., at 554, 100 S. Ct. 1870, 64 L. Ed. 2d 497 (principal opinion).

This test is used when police do not show an unambiguous intent to restrain, or when an individual's submission to a show of governmental authority takes the form of passive acquiescence.

The Court has repeatedly applied Justice Stewart's test:

  • California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 627 (1991)
  • Michigan v. Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 573 (1988)
  • INS v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 215 (1984)
  • Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 435-436 (1991) (adding that when a person "has no desire to leave" for reasons unrelated to the police presence, the "coercive effect of the encounter" can be measured better by asking whether "a reasonable person would feel free to decline the officers' requests or otherwise terminate the encounter.")
  • United States v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194, 202, 122 S. Ct. 2105, 153 L. Ed. 2d 242 (2002).