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N.J. court: Police order to 'stop' must be obeyed

The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J.- A police officer's order to "stop" must be obeyed on the street and can only be challenged in court, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Even an unconstitutional order cannot be challenged by running away, the justices ruled 5-2.

The decision affirmed Saleem Crawley's conviction on a charge of obstructing a public servant from performing his official duties by fleeing.

In March 2002, Crawley fled after two Newark police officers, acting on a tip about a man with a gun, encountered him outside a bar. After receiving a dispatcher's description of the gunman, the officers determined that Crawley "matched exactly."

Crawley, who was caught after a foot chase, had no weapon but was later convicted for running away.

"A person has no constitutional right to endanger the lives of the police or public by fleeing or resisting a stop, even though a judge may later determine that the stop was unsupported by a reasonable and articulable suspicion," Justice Barry Albin wrote for the majority.

The justices ruled that the man's flight "triggered a dangerous pursuit" by police who thought he had a gun, and that police chases can result in death or injury to the police or bystanders.

The two dissenting justices said the police had no legal right to order the stop since there was no evidence that the tip was reliable.

Although police could ask Crawley to answer questions, he had a right to leave the scene, according to the minority opinion.

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