People v. Rodriguez


Question Presented: An officer yelled at a bicyclist, “stop, police” or “hold up, police.” Was this a

Holding: Yes, commanding a bicyclist to stop is a seizure because a “reasonable person would not
feel free to leave” upon hearing such a command. The Court rejected a distinction between
commanding a car to stop (with sirens/lights) and commanding a bicycle to stop (with words). Both
are seizures.

Judge Rivera’s majority opinion rejected the dissent’s alarm that requiring reasonable suspicion
before allowing the government to stop a bicyclist will prevent police from “ridding our streets” of
guns. The majority’s answer here was that it was merely requiring reasonable suspicion before the
police seize someone. “Hyperbole is not constitutional analysis,” the majority explained.

CAL Observes: The majority holding—an officer’s command to stop would cause a reasonable
person to feel that they are not free to leave—is so obvious that one wonders how this case even
reached our State’s High Court. The majority, however, did our jurisprudence a great service by
bypassing the mental gymnastics that often go into “seizure” analysis and instead focusing on the
controlling question: would a reasonable person feel free to leave. Common sense controls that
common-sense question. The majority applied that common sense; the dissent did not even try to.
The dissent, oddly claiming that the majority opinion worked a “drastic change in our law,” never
even tried to apply the seizure standard that has long been our “law”: would a reasonable person
feel free to leave. And while the dissent stated that barring the government from commanding
people to stop based on less than reasonable suspicion would allow gun holders to “ride away,
locked and loaded,” that is always the consequence of limiting state power in the seizure context: it
allows potential lawbreakers to “get away.” The dissent’s objection is not ultimately to the majority
holding, but to the Fourth Amendment itself. Thankfully the state and federal constitutional framers
did not share the dissent’s view of liberty.

We are now waiting for the next shoe to drop. Will the Court of Appeals apply this common sense
holding to commands to pedestrians? After all, no reasonable pedestrian, upon hearing an officer
yell, “stop,” feels free to leave. That critical question, which has long been bouncing around and has
never been squarely decided by either the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, is now up
for grabs. We hope that when the Court confronts that question, it does not adopt a baseless
distinction between bicyclists and pedestrians. Both groups won’t feel free to leave when the badge
commands them to stop. Both are seized when submitting to such commands.