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Whren v. United States

Whren V United States

The Background of Whren v. United States:


Whren v. United States was a United States Supreme Court ruling which declared that any traffic offenses committed by a driver is a legitimate and legally justified reason for a stop.

Whren and Brown were driving in a violent neighborhood when two plainclothes officers—who were patrolling the area in an unmarked vehicle—noticed the two men stopped at intersection for an unusually long amount of time. Without signaling, Whren and Brown sped away. When the officers noticed this violation, they stopped the vehicle, which was driven by Whren.


When the officers approached the car they noticed that Whren was holding plastic bags of crack cocaine. When and Brown were arrested on federal drug charges; however, they attempted to suppress the evidence before trial by contending that the officers used the traffic violation as a pretext for stopping the vehicle. Whren and Brown claimed that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop the men on suspicion of drug dealing.


The District Court denied the motion to suppress the evidence and both Whren and Brown were formally convicted. The Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.


Whren v. United States Trial:


The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that as long as the police offices possessed reasonable cause to believe that a traffic violation occurred, they may stop any vehicle. In the case of Whren v. United States, the officers had reasonable cause to stop the individuals for a traffic violation because they sped away from a stop sign and without using their turn signal. Since an actual traffic violation took place, the ensuing search and seizure of the vehicle was in fact reasonable.


The Case Profile of Whren v. United States


The following is a case profile of the legal trial eponymously titled ‘Whren v. United States’:


Date of the Trial: Whren v. United States was argued on April 1, 1996


Legal Classification: Administrative Law; this legal field associated with events and circumstances in which the Federal Government of the United States engages its citizens, including the administration of government programs, the creation of agencies, and the establishment of a legal, regulatory federal standard


Accused Criminal Activity: The following criminal activity and charges were cited by the District of Columbia against Whren and Brown within the appeal brought forth subsequent to the initial ruling:


The District of Columbia charged Whren with federal drug crimes for possessing crack cocaine. Whren and Brown attempted to suppress the possession of crack cocaine because the arresting officers only noticed the cocaine after a traffic violation. Whren and Brown claimed that the officers, based on the 4th Amendment’s search and seizure and reasonable suspicion clause, were not allowed to observe the contents within the car following a routine traffic stop.


United States Reports Case Number: 517 U.S. 806


Date of the Delivery of the Verdict: Whren v. United States was decided on June 10, 1996


Legal Venue of Whren v. United States: The United States Supreme Court


Judicial Officer Responsible for Ruling: Chief Justice William Rehnquist


Verdict Delivered: The Supreme Court in, Whren v. United States, found that any traffic offense committed by a driver is a legitimate legal basis to initiate a traffic stop.

NEXT: Wickard v. Filburn

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