What Is Reasonable Suspicion?

Posted By Carlson & Collier || 25-Jan-2016

If a police officer stops or arrests a person, there must be “reasonable suspicion” that the individual has some involvement or has participated in a crime. Reasonable suspicion is based on whether or not the facts and other circumstances surrounding the case support the need to stop someone.

We have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches of our person and our possessions. It is not enough for an officer to have “reasonable suspicion,” to conduct a full search. A search warrant must be issued, firstly, and the officer must then prove that there was“probable cause” for seeking this.

What Are the Differences?

The largest difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion is that the latter refers to the action of what any other officer would do in that same situation and at that given moment. It demands much less than probable cause would. Reasonable suspicion forces the officer to halt any actions and take the time to investigate deeper into the matter. It is much more than just a “hunch,” that something illegal is happening, but not serious enough to be considered probable cause.

Here are some examples of reasonable suspicion:

  • An officer detains someone if that person matches the description of a known suspect
  • An officer detains someone if the person runs away upon seeing the police
  • Someone leaves an item in an area and runs off after seeing the police
  • An officer pulls over a vehicle if it matches the description of a suspect vehicle
  • An officer pulls over a swerving driver, indicating he or she may be driving drunk

Probable cause means that the arresting officer has gathered enough evidence and facts that would lead any other person to believe that that person may be involved in criminal activity. The officer must be able to clearly state the facts that support probable cause for arrest. If the officer cannot do, then this offers little evidence for prosecutors to pursue the case further.

If you have any other questions about the laws, contact our Richmond criminal defense attorneys at Carlson & Collier. We are seasoned attorneys with over 75 years of experience.

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