A Criminal Lawyer in Urbana, MD can Help With Matters of Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

The terms “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion” are sometimes used interchangeably, and have similar definitions. In probable cause, a police officer believes that a crime will be, or has been committed. Reasonable suspicion occurs when a person suspects that a crime has been committed. In criminal defense matters, the terms have different implications, as listed below by the Day & Schiszik Law Firm.

If a law enforcement officer can reasonably suspect that a person has committed a crime, the officer can detain the person long enough to search (frisk) them to look for weapons. The officer cannot arrest the person unless the physical search produced evidence that offered probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime. The officer could not obtain a search warrant based on reasonable suspicion alone.

If the abovementioned police officer has probable cause to believe that a particular person is or may be involved in the commission of a crime, the officer can legally make an arrest or obtain a search warrant.

The Threshold for Reasonable Suspicion

The threshold for reasonable suspicion is sufficiently low that some may think that it allows police to stop anyone at any time, for any reason. However, law enforcement officers receive training that teaches them to look at the total picture before stopping a person based solely on reasonable suspicion.

For instance, reasonable suspicion may exist if a person is walking down the sidewalk in the middle of the night, carrying a pry bar and looking into cars. However, there isn’t likely to be reasonable suspicion if a person is holding the pry bar in broad daylight as they’re removing a spare tire from their vehicle.

What to do if you are Detained by a Law Enforcement Officer

If you are ever stopped by law enforcement officers (in what is sometimes called a “Terry stop”), you are legally allowed to ask the officer if you are free to go. If the officer says you are not free to go–if you are in fact being detained–you should immediately invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and request that a criminal lawyer in Urbana, MD be called immediately.

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