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Name: U.S. v. Arvizu
Case #: 00-1519
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 01/15/2002
Subsequent History: Cross-cites: 122 S.Ct. 744; 151 L.Ed.2d 740
Summary

Arvizu was stopped by a Border Patrol Agent while driving on an unpaved road in a remote area of Southeastern Arizona. The agent began following the vehicle because it was a kind of automobile he knew smugglers used (a minivan), and from his experience, it appeared to be taking a backroad to avoid a checkpoint. The driver of the vehicle looked and acted suspicious, and the knees of the children in the back appeared raised as if they had their feet propped up on something. A registration check of the vehicle showed that it was registered to an area notorious for drug and alien smuggling. After the agent received the information regarding the vehicle, he stopped it and obtained consent to search. He discovered 128 pounds of marijuana in a duffle bag under the children’s feet. Arvizu was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and the Ninth Circuit subsequently reversed his conviction, finding that certain of the factors articulated by the Border Patrol agent carried no weight, and the others were insufficient to render the stop permissible. Here, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit. Even if each of the factors alone had an innocent explanation, given the totality of the circumstances, there was reasonable suspicion to believe that Arvizu was involved in illegal activity. Officers can also draw on their own experiences to make inferences from the information available.