What is the Difference Between Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion?
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure by the authorities. To prevent unreasonable seizure, including unlawful arrest, police officers must have certain justification to take action against a person. The two main justifications are called probable cause and reasonable suspicion.
While similar, probable cause and reasonable suspicion are two different standards in the criminal justice system. If you think you were stopped or arrested without proper justification, speak with a Dallas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
In order to obtain a warrant, make an arrest, or issue criminal charges, police officers or prosecutors must demonstrate that there is “probable cause” to believe that an individual committed a crime. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that probable cause means having facts and circumstances known to the officer that are sufficient to establish a reasonable belief that a crime was being committed.
Probable cause cannot be based on a mere hunch or suspicion, and officers must demonstrate reliable information they had on which to base probable cause for an arrest.
While probable cause is needed to make an arrest or obtain a warrant, there are circumstances in which a lower standard applies for police officers to detain someone. This includes traffic stops or “Terry stops,” which are also known as stop and frisks.
In these situations, police officers do not have to demonstrate they had enough information to establish probable cause. Instead, they need to show they had a credible reason based on facts and observations to reasonably suspect criminal activity occurred, and the detention would uncover information related to the crime. Detentions based on reasonable suspicion should be brief, and an arrest can only follow if the officer then obtains probable cause.
How These Standards Affect Criminal Cases
If you think that identifying probable cause and reasonable suspicion is challenging, you are not alone. Determining whether police had the proper justification for a traffic stop, detention, or arrest requires a complicated legal analysis based on the specific fact situation. It is important to identify when officers did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion as required since it can help your criminal case.
If officers detained or arrested you without justification, the stop or arrest is unlawful and in violation of your rights. Your criminal defense attorney can request that the court suppress any evidence stemming from the unlawful police action. In many cases, this can eliminate key evidence and result in criminal charges being dropped completely. This is one reason why it is essential to have a legal professional who can evaluate whether probable cause or reasonable suspicion was satisfied in your case.
Speak with a Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Case
If you are arrested, your first call should be to Plano criminal defense lawyer J. Michael Price. I explore every possible avenue to defend against your criminal charges and protect your rights. Contact us online or call 214-765-8000 for more information.