United States v. Ralph Arvizu No. 00-1519, U.S. Supreme Court. January 15, 2002.

Facts: After a sensor went off on a road known for drug smuggling, a federal border patrol agent went to the road and discovered Arvizu driving with a woman in the passenger seat and three kids in the back. While behind Arvizu, the border patrol agent noticed ten suspicious things about Arvizu’s driving. The border agent pulled Arvizu over and searched the car after he got permission from Arvizu. The border agent found 128.85 lbs of marijuana. Arvizu was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Arvizu motioned to suppress the evidence because the border agent did not have reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle as required by the Fourth Amendment. The District Court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the District Court’s decision because it concluded that 7 out of the 10 factors that caused the border agent to pull over Arvizu had little to no weight in regards to reasonable suspicion.

Procedural History: District Court denied motion to suppress evidence. Arvizu appealed to The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Decision was overturned. United States petitioned the Supreme Court. Supreme Court granted cert.

Issue: Whether reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop can be found when the majority of the observable factors documented to raise the suspicion are found to carry little or no weight in reasonable-suspicion calculus.

Holding: Yes

Reasoning: Whenever the Court measures reasonable-suspicion, it measures the totality of circumstances involved in the case in order to judge whether the arresting officer had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting a legal wrong doing. The Court of Appeals erred because it looked at each factor as a singular event and concluded that only three of the factors were relevant suspicions. Since all the factors must be viewed together, the collective suspicious qualities of each factor would provide reasonable suspicion to make the traffic stop.

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