Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438 (1980)

Author: Justice Powell

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Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438 (1980)


This case is similar in many respects to United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980), in which a defendant observed walking through an airport was stopped by DEA agents and asked for identification. The threshold question in Mendenhall, as here, was whether the agent’s initial stop of the suspect constituted a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. MR. JUSTICE STEWART, joined by MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, was of the opinion that the mere stopping of a person for identification purposes is not a seizure:

We conclude that a person has been "seized" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment only if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.

Id. at 554.{2} Thus, on the basis of facts remarkably similar to those in the present case, MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST decided that no seizure had occurred.

My concurring opinion in Mendenhall, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN joined, did not consider the seizure issue because it had not been raised in the courts below. Even if the stop constituted a seizure, it was my view that the DEA agents had articulable and reasonable grounds for believing that the individual was engaged in criminal activity. Therefore, they did not violate the Fourth Amendment by stopping that person for routine questioning. I expressly stated, however, that my decision not to reach the seizure issue did not necessarily indicate disagreement with the views of MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST. Id. at 560, n. 1.{3}

The state courts, which decided this case before our decision in Mendenhall, did not consider whether the petitioner had been seized. Rather, those courts apparently assumed that the stop for routine identification questioning constituted a seizure, and addressed only the question whether the agent’s actions were justified by articulable and reasonable grounds of suspicion. Because we similarly do not consider the initial seizure question in our decision today, that issue remains open for consideration by the state courts in light of the opinions in Mendenhall.

1. I agree, on the basis of the fragmentary facts apparently relied upon by the DEA agents in this case, that there was no justification for a "seizure."

2. MR. JUSTICE STEWART also noted that "`[t]here is nothing in the Constitution which prevents a policeman from addressing questions to anyone on the streets.’" 446 U.S. at 553, quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 34 (1968) (WHITE, J., concurring). See also ante at 440, n.

3. MR. JUSTICE WHITE, joined by MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, filed a dissenting opinion in Mendenhall in which they concluded that the respondent had been detained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.


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Chicago: Powell, "Powell, J., Concurring," Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438 (1980) in 448 U.S. 438 448 U.S. 443. Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Powell. "Powell, J., Concurring." Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438 (1980), in 448 U.S. 438, page 448 U.S. 443. Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Powell, 'Powell, J., Concurring' in Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438 (1980). cited in 1980, 448 U.S. 438, pp.448 U.S. 443. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from