Sunday, November 3, 2013

United States v. Sokolow case brief

United States v. Sokolow case brief summary
490 U.S. 1 (1989)

The United States obtained a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court of appeals reversed defendant's conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine on the ground that the Drug Enforcement Administration agents who stopped defendant did not have reasonable suspicion for the stop.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Honolulu learned that defendant had paid cash for his $ 2,100 airline tickets to spend a short time in Miami, a drug source. In addition, defendant appeared nervous and was travelling under a false name. They stopped him when he returned to Honolulu and discovered cocaine in his luggage. Defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 841(a)(1). The appellate court reversed, holding that the DEA agents had no reasonable suspicion for the stop defendant.

  • On certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court held that although each of defendant's actions by itself might have been innocent, the totality of all the circumstances together with all of defendant's actions were sufficient for DEA agents to have a reasonable suspicion that defendant was committing a drug crime. 
  • Because the standard for reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop was less than for probable cause, the Court determined that the DEA agents were justified in making the stop. 
  • The Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded the case.


The Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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