Whren v. United States

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Whren v. United States
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Citation
Date decided June 10, 1996
Appealed from US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit

Facts

In June 1993, two police officers were patrolling an area in Washington DC known for high drug trafficking.

Two black men in their Nissan Pathfinder car turned right at an intersection without using a turn signal and drove away from the police at an unreasonable speed.

The officers stopped the car for not using a turn signal and speeding. When the officers approached the car, they found bags of crack cocaine in plain view inside the car.

Issues

Would a reasonable officer pull over a defendant for not using a turn signal?

Arguments

The defendants argued that the stop and search of the vehicle were unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. They stated that if the police hadn't followed them, they wouldn't have sped away.

The defendants argued that the police wouldn't have stopped them but for the fact they were black men.

Holding

Pretext doesn't matter when police officers search for drugs after a minor traffic violation.

Rule

Police officers may use a traffic stop to search for illegal drugs.