CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondent Andrew Sokolow was stopped by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents upon his arrival at Honolulu International Airport. The agents found 1,063 grams of cocaine in his carry-on luggage. When respondent was stopped, the agents knew, inter alia, that (1) he paid $2,100 for two airplane tickets from a roll of $20 bills; (2) he traveled under a name that did not match the name under which his telephone number was listed; (3) his original destination was Miami, a source city for illicit drugs; (4) he stayed in Miami for only 48 hours, even though a round-trip flight from Honolulu to Miami takes 20 hours; (5) he appeared nervous during his trip; and (6) he checked none of his luggage. A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the DEA agents did not have a reasonable suspicion to stop respondent, as required by the Fourth Amendment. 831 F.2d 1413 (1987). We take the contrary view.
After the couple left for their flight, the ticket agent informed Officer John McCarthy of the Honolulu Police Department of respondent's cash purchase of tickets to Miami. Officer McCarthy determined that the telephone number respondent gave to the ticket agent was subscribed to a "Karl Herman," who resided at 348-A Royal Hawaiian Avenue in Honolulu. Unbeknownst to McCarthy (and later to the DEA agents), respondent was Herman's roommate. The ticket agent identified respondent's voice on the answering machine at Herman's number. Officer McCarthy was unable to find any listing under the name "Andrew Kray" in Hawaii. McCarthy subsequently learned that return reservations from Miami to Honolulu had been made in the names of Kray and Norian, with their arrival scheduled for July 25, three days after respondent and his companion had left. He also learned that Kray and Norian were scheduled to make stopovers in Denver and Los Angeles.
Respondent and Norian were escorted to the DEA office at the airport. There, the couple's luggage was examined by "Donker," a narcotics detector dog, which alerted on respondent's brown shoulder bag. The agents arrested respondent. He was advised of his constitutional rights and declined to make any statements. The agents obtained a warrant to search the shoulder bag. They found no illicit drugs, but the bag did contain several suspicious documents indicating respondent's involvement in drug trafficking. The agents had Donker reexamine the remaining luggage, and this time the dog alerted on a medium-sized Louis Vuitton bag. By now, it was 9:30 p. m., too late for the agents to obtain a second warrant. They allowed respondent to leave for the night, but kept his luggage. The next morning, after a second dog confirmed Donker's alert, the agents obtained a warrant and found 1,063 grams of cocaine inside the bag.
Respondent was indicted for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U. S. C. § 841(a)(1). The United States District Court for Hawaii denied his motion to suppress the cocaine and other evidence seized from his luggage, finding that the DEA agents had a reasonable suspicion
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed respondent's conviction by a divided vote, holding that the DEA agents did not have a reasonable suspicion to justify the stop. 831 F. 2d, at 1423.
The Court of Appeals held that the DEA agents seized respondent when they grabbed him by the arm and moved him back onto the sidewalk. 831 F. 2d, at 1416. The Government does not challenge that conclusion, and we assume — without deciding — that a stop occurred here. Our decision, then, turns on whether the agents had a reasonable suspicion that respondent was engaged in wrongdoing when they encountered him on the sidewalk. In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968), we held that the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity "may be afoot," even if the officer lacks probable cause.
The officer, of course, must be able to articulate something more than an "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or `hunch.' " Id., at 27. The Fourth Amendment requires "some minimal level of objective justification" for making the stop. INS v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 217 (1984). That level of suspicion is considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence. We have held that probable cause means "a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found," Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983), and the level of suspicion required for a Terry stop is obviously less demanding than that for probable cause, see United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 541, 544 (1985).
The concept of reasonable suspicion, like probable cause, is not "readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules." Gates, supra, at 232. We think the Court of Appeals' effort to refine and elaborate the requirements of "reasonable suspicion" in this case creates unnecessary difficulty in dealing with one of the relatively simple concepts embodied
The rule enunciated by the Court of Appeals, in which evidence available to an officer is divided into evidence of "ongoing criminal behavior," on the one hand, and "probabilistic" evidence, on the other, is not in keeping with the quoted statements from our decisions. It also seems to us to draw a sharp line between types of evidence, the probative value of which varies only in degree. The Court of Appeals classified evidence of traveling under an alias, or evidence that the suspect took an evasive or erratic path through an airport, as meeting the test for showing "ongoing criminal activity." But certainly instances are conceivable in which traveling under an alias would not reflect ongoing criminal activity: for example, a person who wished to travel to a hospital or clinic for an operation and wished to conceal that fact. One taking an evasive path through an airport might be seeking to avoid a confrontation with an angry acquaintance or with a creditor. This is not to say that each of these types of evidence is not highly probative, but they do not have the sort of ironclad significance attributed to them by the Court of Appeals.
On the other hand, the factors in this case that the Court of Appeals treated as merely "probabilistic" also have probative significance. Paying $2,100 in cash for two airplane tickets is out of the ordinary, and it is even more out of the ordinary to pay that sum from a roll of $20 bills containing nearly twice that amount of cash. Most business travelers, we feel confident, purchase airline tickets by credit card or check so as to
Any one of these factors is not by itself proof of any illegal conduct and is quite consistent with innocent travel. But we think taken together they amount to reasonable suspicion. See Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 502 (1983) (opinion of WHITE, J.); id., at 515-516 (BLACKMUN, J., dissenting); id., at 523-524 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting).
We do not agree with respondent that our analysis is somehow changed by the agents' belief that his behavior was consistent with one of the DEA's "drug courier profiles."
Respondent also contends that the agents were obligated to use the least intrusive means available to verify or dispel their suspicions that he was smuggling narcotics. Id., at 12-13, 21-23. In respondent's view, the agents should have simply approached and spoken with him, rather than forcibly detaining him. He points to the statement in Florida v. Royer, supra, at 500 (opinion of WHITE, J.), that "the investigative
We hold that the agents had a reasonable basis to suspect that respondent was transporting illegal drugs on these facts. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with our decision.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE MARSHALL, with whom JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, dissenting.
Because the strongest advocates of Fourth Amendment rights are frequently criminals, it is easy to forget that our interpretations of such rights apply to the innocent and the guilty alike. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 290 (1983) (BRENNAN, J., dissenting). In the present case, the chain of events set in motion when respondent Andrew Sokolow was stopped by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents at Honolulu International Airport led to the discovery of cocaine and, ultimately, to Sokolow's conviction for drug trafficking. But in sustaining this conviction on the ground that the agents reasonably suspected Sokolow of ongoing criminal activity, the Court diminishes the rights of all citizens "to be secure in their persons," U. S. Const., Amdt. 4, as they
The Fourth Amendment cabins government's authority to intrude on personal privacy and security by requiring that searches and seizures usually be supported by a showing of probable cause. The reasonable-suspicion standard is a derivation of the probable-cause command, applicable only to those brief detentions which fall short of being full-scale searches and seizures and which are necessitated by law enforcement exigencies such as the need to stop ongoing crimes, to prevent imminent crimes, and to protect law enforcement officers in highly charged situations. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968). By requiring reasonable suspicion as a prerequisite to such seizures, the Fourth Amendment protects innocent persons from being subjected to "overbearing or harassing" police conduct carried out solely on the basis of imprecise stereotypes of what criminals look like, or on the basis of irrelevant personal characteristics such as race. Id., at 14-15, and n. 11 (citation omitted).
To deter such egregious police behavior, we have held that a suspicion is not reasonable unless officers have based it on "specific and articulable facts." Id., at 21; see also United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 880 (1975). It is not enough to suspect that an individual has committed crimes in the past, harbors unconsummated criminal designs, or has the propensity to commit crimes. On the contrary, before detaining an individual, law enforcement officers must reasonably suspect that he is engaged in, or poised to commit, a criminal act at that moment. See, e. g., Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51 (1979) (to detain, officers must "have a reasonable suspicion, based on objective facts, that the individual is involved in criminal activity"); Terry, supra, at 30 (reasonable suspicion exists only where policeman reasonably concludes, inter alia, "that criminal activity may be afoot"). The rationale for permitting brief, warrantless seizures is, after all, that it is impractical to demand strict compliance
Evaluated against this standard, the facts about Andrew Sokolow known to the DEA agents at the time they stopped him fall short of reasonably indicating that he was engaged at the time in criminal activity. It is highly significant that the DEA agents stopped Sokolow because he matched one of the DEA's "profiles" of a paradigmatic drug courier. In my view, a law enforcement officer's mechanistic application of a formula of personal and behavioral traits in deciding whom to detain can only dull the officer's ability and determination to make sensitive and fact-specific inferences "in light of his experience," Terry, supra, at 27, particularly in ambiguous or borderline cases. Reflexive reliance on a profile of drug courier characteristics runs a far greater risk than does ordinary, case-by-case police work of subjecting innocent individuals to unwarranted police harassment and detention. This risk is enhanced by the profile's "chameleon-like way of adapting to any particular set of observation." 831 F.2d 1413, 1418 (CA9 1987). Compare, e. g., United States v. Moore, 675 F.2d 802, 803 (CA6 1982) (suspect was first to deplane), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1068 (1983), with United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 564 (1980) (last to deplane), with United States v. Buenaventura-Ariza, 615 F.2d 29, 31 (CA2 1980) (deplaned from middle); United States v. Sullivan, 625 F.2d 9, 12 (CA4 1980) (one-way tickets), with United States v. Craemer, 555 F.2d 594, 595 (CA6 1977) (round-trip tickets), with United States v. McCaleb, 552 F.2d 717, 720 (CA6 1977) (nonstop flight), with United States v. Sokolow, 808 F.2d 1366, 1370 (CA9), vacated, 831 F.2d 1413
That the factors comprising the drug courier profile relied on in this case are especially dubious indices of ongoing criminal activity is underscored by Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438 (1980), a strikingly similar case. There, four facts, encoded in a drug courier profile, were alleged in support of the DEA's detention of a suspect at the Atlanta Airport. First, Reid had arrived from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a source city for cocaine. Second, he arrived in the early morning, when law enforcement activity is diminished. Third, he and his companion appeared to have no luggage other than their shoulder bags. And fourth, he and his companion appeared to be trying to conceal the fact that they were traveling together. Id., at 440-441.
This collection of facts, we held, was inadequate to support a finding of reasonable suspicion. All but the last of these facts, we observed, "describe a very large category of presumably
The facts known to the DEA agents at the time they detained the traveler in this case are scarcely more suggestive of ongoing criminal activity than those in Reid. Unlike traveler Reid, who sought to conceal the fact that he was traveling with a companion, and who even attempted to run away after being approached by a DEA agent, 448 U. S., at 439, traveler Sokolow gave no indications of evasive activity. On the contrary, the sole behavioral detail about Sokolow noted by the DEA agents was that he was nervous. With news accounts proliferating of plane crashes, near collisions, and air terrorism, there are manifold and good reasons for being agitated while awaiting a flight, reasons that have nothing to do with one's involvement in a criminal endeavor.
The remaining circumstantial facts known about Sokolow, considered either singly or together, are scarcely indicative of criminal activity. Like the information disavowed in Reid as nonprobative, the fact that Sokolow took a brief trip to a
Finally, that Sokolow paid for his tickets in cash indicates no imminent or ongoing criminal activity. The majority "feel[s] confident" that "[m]ost business travelers . . . purchase airline tickets by credit card or check." Ante, at 8. Why the majority confines its focus only to "business travelers" I do not know, but I would not so lightly infer ongoing crime from the use of legal tender. Making major cash purchases, while surely less common today, may simply reflect the traveler's aversion to, or inability to obtain, plastic
The fact is that, unlike the taking of patently evasive action, Florida v. Rodriguez, 469 U.S. 1, 6 (1984), the use of an alias, Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 502 (1983), the casing of a store, Terry, supra, at 6, or the provision of a reliable report from an informant that wrongdoing is imminent, Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S., at 225-227, nothing about the characteristics shown by airport traveler Sokolow reasonably suggests that criminal activity is afoot. The majority's hasty conclusion to the contrary serves only to indicate its willingness, when drug crimes or antidrug policies are at issue, to give short shrift to constitutional rights. See, e. g., Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives' Assn., 489 U.S. 602, 636 (1989) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting).