Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 13 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

discretion is sufficiently constrained, id., at 654-655 (quoting United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U. S., at 560). What is true of Prouse is also true of other cases that engaged in detailed "balancing" to decide the constitutionality of automobile stops, such as Martinez-Fuerte, which upheld checkpoint stops, see 428 U. S., at 556-562, and Brignoni-Ponce, which disallowed so-called "roving patrol" stops, see 422 U. S., at 882-884: The detailed "balancing" analysis was necessary because they involved seizures without probable cause.

Where probable cause has existed, the only cases in which we have found it necessary actually to perform the "balancing" analysis involved searches or seizures conducted in an extraordinary manner, unusually harmful to an individual's privacy or even physical interests—such as, for example, seizure by means of deadly force, see Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U. S. 1 (1985), unannounced entry into a home, see Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U. S. 927 (1995), entry into a home without a warrant, see Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U. S. 740 (1984), or physical penetration of the body, see Winston v. Lee, 470 U. S. 753 (1985). The making of a traffic stop out of uniform does not remotely qualify as such an extreme practice, and so is governed by the usual rule that probable cause to believe the law has been broken "outbalances" private interest in avoiding police contact.

Petitioners urge as an extraordinary factor in this case that the "multitude of applicable traffic and equipment regulations" is so large and so difficult to obey perfectly that virtually everyone is guilty of violation, permitting the police to single out almost whomever they wish for a stop. But we are aware of no principle that would allow us to decide at what point a code of law becomes so expansive and so commonly violated that infraction itself can no longer be the ordinary measure of the lawfulness of enforcement. And even if we could identify such exorbitant codes, we do not know by what standard (or what right) we would decide, as

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