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Minnesota v. Dickerson

Nightwalker Statutes

There is a presumption that when someone is out late, it has to be for a reason, and though not everyone who goes about in the wee hours is a criminal, certainly criminals are apt to be operating at a time when the largest number of people are asleep. The common-law definition of burglary, in fact, used to involve the issue of whether or not the act took place after dark. Though in many jurisdictions, the nighttime aspect is no longer crucial to a definition of the crime, statutes linking burglary with darkness remain on the books in many states.

As Justice Scalia noted, common law documents as old as the Statute of Winchester, enacted in England in 1285, provide for the detention of suspicious nightwalkers. Scalia stated that this was just about as far as the nightwalker statutes should go: thus a 1942 article from the Virginia Law Review that stated "At common law, if a watchman came upon a suspiciously acting nightwalker, he might arrest him and then search him for weapons, but he had no right to search before arrest."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Minnesota v. Dickerson - Significance, Impact, Nightwalker Statutes, Further Readings