Fourth Amendment: Racial Justice Amicus and Appellate Strategies

"Reasonable Black Child" Arguments

Under the Fourth Amendment, the Court must assess whether an individual’s response to police is “reasonable.” This response will often reflect the history of policing of that community. More specifically, Black youth from a heavily policed neighborhood may flee or act evasive when a white youth would not. In Commonwealth v. Evelyn, the Massachusetts Supreme Court noted that police could not take into account the suspect’s “nervous and evasive behavior.” Commonwealth v. Evelyn, 152 N.E.3d 108, 125–26 (2020). Id. at 125. Similar arguments apply to youth who flee police; related arguments may be made under the Fifth Amendment regarding susceptibility to coercion during an interrogation.


Our brief argued that courts must consider the unique intersectionality of youth and race when applying the Fourth Amendment reasonable person analysis for seizures and that in this case, the combination of a child’s age, developmental status, and race affected his perception of the police encounter in this case. Our brief urged the court to conclude that a reasonable Black youth would have felt compelled to submit to police contact or act to avoid the encounter.