What is Reasonable Suspicion?

January 1, 2019 | By Shane Phelps Law
What is Reasonable Suspicion?

For police officers to make a traffic stop or otherwise temporarily detain someone, they must first establish reasonable suspicion, which is essentially a presumption that a crime is being, has been, or will be committed based on specific circumstances and facts. Simply having a hunch or a gut feeling doesn’t give rise to reasonable suspicion, but it doesn’t require as much evidence in comparison to probable cause, which is necessary to get an arrest or search warrant.

The main difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause is that the latter indicates there is concrete evidence of a crime, while the former means that appears a criminal offense may have been committed. An individual may not be arrested based on reasonable suspicion; however, if probable cause is established during the investigatory stop, then an arrest can be made.

For example, if a driver is seen committing a traffic violation (e.g. speeding, switching lanes without using turn signals, or driving with a busted taillight) or otherwise driving erratically (e.g. unexplained acceleration or braking, swerving, or weaving across lanes), then this gives law enforcement reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop. An investigatory stop enables officers to examine the potential reasons why the driver is operating the vehicle in such a manner.

Furthermore, if law enforcement discovers evidence that a support a crime has been committed, such as the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath, slurred speech, delayed reactions, or an open container in the vehicle, this gives officers probable cause to make an arrest.

If you believe the police made a traffic stop for no reason and proceeded to arrest you for a crime, it is possible your charges can be dismissed by filing a motion to suppress evidence with the help of a criminal defense lawyer. If the court finds that law enforcement failed to establish reasonable suspicion prior to making an investigatory stop, then any evidence obtained during the stop can be deemed inadmissible in court. Without any evidence to support the prosecution’s case, your case could be dismissed.

For more information about reasonable suspicion, contact us at Shane Phelps Law. today and schedule a free consultation.