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United States v. Sokolow


DEA agents developed the following facts concerning the defendant: (1) he paid $2,100 for two airplane tickets from a roll of $20 bills; (2) he was traveling under a name that did not match the name for the telephone number he had given to the ticket agent (which was legal at that time); (3) his original destination was Miami, Florida, a known source city for controlled substances; (4) he stayed in Miami for a total of 48 hours; (5) a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Miami takes 20 hours; (5) he appeared nervous during his trip; and (6) he did not check his luggage. Based on these facts, the DEA agents decided to stop the defendant. His shoulder bag was removed from him and a narcotics detection dog signaled that controlled substances were inside. The agents obtained a search warrant, and found controlled substances in his luggage.


Whether the DEA agents who stopped the defendant had reasonable suspicion that he was involved in criminal activity at the time of the stop?


Yes. Based on the totality of the circumstances known to the agents at the time of the stop, they had a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot.


“Reasonable suspicion,” like probable cause, is difficult to define. In determining the
legality of a Terry stop, the totality of the circumstances is considered. None of the
factors known to the agents at the time of the stop, standing alone, was proof of illegal
activity. However, when considered together, the facts amounted to reasonable
suspicion. The Court emphasized that “there could, of course, be circumstances in
which wholly lawful conduct might justify the suspicion that criminal activity was


490 U.S. 1, 109 S. Ct. 1581 (1989)

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