"This is part of a long trend on the part of this Court to cut back on Fourth Amendment rights," says TIME senior writer Adam Cohen. "In the 1960s and '70s, search and seizure rights were expanded considerably, and now, the conservative majority feels that protection has gone too far." And since many law-abiding citizens would probably hightail it out of a potentially dangerous situation or neighborhood, this ruling may open the door for a lot of unwarranted stop-and-search episodes. "This isn't like looking for blood dripping out of a car trunk," says Cohen. "Even innocent people run for a lot of reasons including fear of the police." Of course, as the prevailing Justices might point out, people with nothing to hide shouldn't have a problem taking a moment to chat with a group of friendly officers.
Bad news Wednesday for anyone who's ever panicked at the sight of blue uniforms and flashing red lights. Led by Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that officers can legally stop and question anyone who runs away from a cop and exhibits "nervous, evasive behavior." The case prompting the decision involved a Chicago man who ran after seeing police in an area saturated with drug dealers. Police took off after him, claiming his flight helped to establish "reasonable suspicion" of his involvement in a recent or impending criminal act and was therefore covered under the legal parameters established in a 1968 Court ruling.