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Brower v. Inyo County


The decedent was killed one evening when he drove a stolen car through a police roadblock. The roadblock consisted of an unilluminated 18-wheel tractor-trailer placed across both lanes of a two-lane road, behind a curve. A police car, with its headlights on, was placed between the decedent’s vehicle and the tractor-trailer.


Whether the officers’ actions constituted a seizure under the Fourth Amendment?


Yes. The officers’ action of setting up the roadblock was not a seizure. However, when the decedent crashed into the roadblock he was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.


A person is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment whenever the government has terminated a person’s freedom of movement through means intentionally applied. A Fourth Amendment seizure, however, does not occur just because there is a governmentally caused termination of an individual’s freedom of movement. Only when that termination is intentionally applied does a Fourth Amendment seizure occur, as was the case here.


489 U.S. 593, 109 S. Ct. 1378 (1989)

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