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United States v. Sokolow - Significance, A Brief And Unusual Trip, A Successful Police Operation, An Invasion Of Privacy

law criminal enforcement petitioner


United States


Andrew Sokolow

Petitioner's Claim

That agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency had probable cause to suspect that Sokolow was in possession of an illegal substance, and were legally justified under the Fourth Amendment in detaining Sokolow and searching his belongings.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Paul J. Larkin, Jr.

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Robert P. Goldberg

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist (writing for the Court), Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

3 April 1989


Upheld the position of the United States, overturning the ruling of the court of appeals and holding that law enforcement officers can detain an individual if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is engaging or about to engage in criminal activity, even without probable cause to believe that any criminal action has or will occur.

Related Cases

  • Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
  • Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983).
  • INS v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210 (1984).
  • United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531 (1985).

Further Readings

  • Burnett, Arthur L. "Permeation of Race, National Origin, and Gender Issues from Initial Law Enforcement Contact Through Sentencing." American Criminal Law Review, summer 1994, p. 1153.
  • "25th Annual Review of Criminal Procedure." Georgetown Law Journal. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, April 1996.
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