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In the context of a Terry stop, a defendant's flight can be a relevant factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis. The U.S. Supreme Court in Illinois v. Wardlow stopped short of endorsing the proposition that flight is necessarily indicative of ongoing criminal activity, and adhered to the view that the concept of reasonable suspicion is not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules, but must be determined by looking to the totality of the circumstances. The U.S. Supreme Court has since emphasized on multiple occasions the fact-intensive and context-dependent nature of the reasonable suspicion analysis.
Appellant Everett Miles challenged the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress tangible evidence, arguing that the police lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to conduct the Terry stop that led to his being charged with and later convicted of several gun-related offenses. He argues that the anonymous tip that formed the basis for his stop—a 911 call from a "concerned citizen" describing a man with characteristics similar to Mr. Miles's, "shooting a gun in the air"—was insufficiently corroborated and thus was not shown to be reliable. He contended, in particular, that his flight when police officers approached him near the location of the alleged shooting was not sufficient to corroborate the tip.
Did the police lack reasonable suspicion to subject Miles to a Terry stop?
The court found that because Miles’ flight was not unprovoked to the same extent as defendant's flight in Illinois v. Wardlow, and because there were no circumstances that gave an incriminating light on Miles’ flight, the said flight of Miles had not sufficiently corroborated the 911 call from the anonymous tipster. For the foregoing reasons, the police lacked reasonable suspicion to subject Miles to a Terry stop under the Fourth Amendment. Wardlow differed primarily in that the present case involved an anonymous tip while Wardlow involved a high-crime area and the defendant holding an opaque bag. Under the circumstances the flight in the present case was not substantially indicative of criminal activity.