A police officer cannot briefly detain someone or perform a pat-down on the outside of his clothing without reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime, or is in the middle of committing a crime. It’s important to thoroughly understand the concept of reasonable suspicion so you know if your rights are being violated by a police officer.
Reasonable Suspicion Is More Than A Hunch
Police officers cannot choose to detain or pat someone down because of a gut feeling that the person has engaged in criminal activity. A hunch is not enough to meet the legal standard of reasonable suspicion.
What is enough? Anytime that a police officer chooses to detain someone or perform a pat-down, he must be able to describe why any reasonable law enforcement officer would be suspicious of the person. This means providing specific facts and circumstances that show how the police officer arrived at the conclusion that the person was involved in criminal activity.
For example, a police officer may spot an individual that is walking along a street at night with a crowbar in his hands. As he gets closer to the person, the officer notices that he is also looking into the windows of cars. A reasonable police officer in this situation would most likely assume that the person is about to break into a car to steal someone else’s belongings. Therefore, the officer has the right to briefly detain and perform a pat-down on this individual.
Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause
People often confuse reasonable suspicion and probable cause, but these two legal standards are very different. The legal standard of reasonable suspicion is met if a reasonable police officer would assume that a person is involved in criminal activity based on the facts and circumstances. On the other hand, the legal standard of probable cause if met if a reasonable person would make this assumption.
A police officer cannot arrest someone with reasonable suspicion alone. To make an arrest, he must have probable cause, which requires more evidence. Police officers also cannot perform searches or seize evidence without probable cause.
Have you been detained, pat down, or arrested? If so, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Reisch Law Firm today. We will review your case to make sure that the police officer followed proper protocol when interacting with you. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 303-291-0555 or filling out this online form.