Maryland court: Running away at sight of police is reason to detain

Posted at 1:45 PM, December 20, 2022 and last updated 7:24 PM, July 5, 2023


BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Maryland’s Supreme Court has reaffirmed that merely running away at the sight of police can in some cases provide them enough reasonable suspicion to temporarily detain and question someone.

The court’s latest ruling comes after a Baltimore man challenged his 2021 conviction on gun possession charges, despite previously pleading guilty.

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Lawyers for Tyrie Washington claim that police had no right to stop him in the first place.

Police contend they chased Washington when he saw a marked patrol car passing by, and abruptly fled by jumping over two fences and hiding behind a bush.

Washington’s defense team argued he ran out of fear of police brutality.

When officers caught up with him, they recovered a handgun from his waistband.

Two officers, including the one who found the gun, testified in court that Washington showed characteristics of being armed, but didn’t relay that information to each other.

Meanwhile the officer who eventually captured Washington recalled nothing that suggested Washington was armed at the time, yet reasoned the chase was justified due to it taking place in a high violent crime area.

In a 6-1 decision the state’s high court ruled the fact that Washington fled in an unprovoked manner in a high crime area was enough for police to give chase, citing in part a 1968 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio.

“Even when we consider in the analysis the possibility that Washington may have feared the police due to an increased public awareness of officers having mistreated citizens, the facts remain that Washington engaged in serial unprovoked, headlong flight, took evasive maneuvers, and attempted to conceal himself after merely seeing officers drive by,” the majority opinion states. “There was no provocation or even a suggestion that the detectives were going to initiate contact with Washington.”

The justices however stopped short of ruling that running from police in itself is enough to detain in all situations.

“We do not establish a bright-line rule that unprovoked flight from police officers in a high-crime area by any person or a person who is a member of any group is a factor that may never give rise to reasonable suspicion,” wrote the majority. “Whether unprovoked flight is to be considered a factor weighing in favor of reasonable suspicion and what weight to give it as a factor are factual determinations to be made on a case-by-case basis by the trial court.”

To read the full Supreme Court opinion, click here.

This story was originally published Dec. 20 by WMAR in Baltimore, an E.W. Scripps Company.

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