Quick Summary:  Shining a flashlight on a person does not turn an encounter into a seizure.

While two police officers were talking to one person late at night in Lincoln, Nebraska, Turner approached the officers.  As Turner approached an officer shined a flashlight on him. Turner asked the officer to lower the light out of his face and when he did, he noticed Turner was standing on what appeared to be a bag full of meth. Officer’s then order both individuals to put their hands on a vehicle. Turner was charged for possessing with intent to distribute.

Turner argued that shining the light on his constituted a seizure and it was without reasonable suspicion so the meth should be excluded. The Eighth Circuit disagreed. The court noted that an officer may generally approach an individual and ask him questions, even when the officer does not have a basis for suspecting that the individual has committed or is committing a crime, so long as the officer does not convey a message that compliance with the request is required. (citing Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429 (1991)).  The court held that “shining a flashlight to illuminate a person in the darkness is not a coercive act that communicates an official order to stop or comply.”

To read or download the full decision CLICK HERE