Reasonable Suspicion v. Probable Cause

REASONABLE SUSPICION

Reasonable suspicion is a term used to describe if a person has been or will be involved in a crime based on specific facts and circumstances. It may be used to justify an investigatory stop. Reasonable suspicion is more than a hunch that a crime has committed but does not require as much evidence as probable cause.

To evaluate reasonable suspicion, the court must decide if a reasonable person or reasonable officer would also infer that a person is involved in a crime were the circumstances the same.

The Supreme Court ruled in Terry V. Ohio that an individual may be stopped and frisked by law enforcement agents based on reasonable suspicion. The court found that this type of detainment (referred to as a Terry Stop) does not violate the Fourth Amendment, which restricts unreasonable search and seizure.

A person may not be arrested based on reasonable suspicion – an arrest is made based on probable cause. However, if probable cause develops during an investigatory stop, the officer may arrest the suspect.

When would an investigatory stop for reasonable suspicion be appropriate?
If a person was carrying around items that would be useful in committing a crime, the officer has reasonable suspicion to stop him or her. For example, a person carrying a wire hanger and looking into parked vehicles late at night may be seen as someone who is about to commit a crime. If an individual matches the description of a suspect, that may also be used a basis for reasonable suspicion.

Reasonable suspicion does not apply if a person simply refuses to answer questions or is of a certain ethnicity or race.

PROBABLE CAUSE

Probable cause is defined as a reasonable belief that an individual has, is, or will commit a crime. This belief must be based on facts, not a hunch or suspicion. To determine if there was probable cause, the court must find that a person with reasonable intelligence would believe that a crime was being committed under the same circumstances. Probable cause requires stronger evidence than reasonable suspicion.

Now, in Arizona, if a reasonable person “suspects” someone is here illegally, that person may be stopped, detained and question. What would constitute evidence of being here illegally? Speaking in a foreign language? Having dark skin?

But how does that give rise to a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed the crime of being here illegally? After all, don’t legal immigrants speak foreign languages, have dark skins, wear different clothing?

Now, in Arizona, people can be stopped on a mere hunch. Whites, who speak English, will be above suspicion. Not so for non-whites, especially latinos, or anyone with a foreign accent. Because now, for the first time, Reasonable Suspicion DOES apply if a person simply refuses to answer questions or is of a certain ethnicity or race.

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6 thoughts on “Reasonable Suspicion v. Probable Cause

  1. Because now, for the first time, Reasonable Suspicion DOES apply if a person simply refuses to answer questions or is of a certain ethnicity or race.

    And that’s frickin’ un-Constitutional!

  2. Re: “Now, in Arizona, people can be stopped on a mere hunch. Whites, who speak English, will be above suspicion. Not so for non-whites, especially latinos, or anyone with a foreign accent. Because now, for the first time, Reasonable Suspicion DOES apply if a person simply refuses to answer questions or is of a certain ethnicity or race.”

    Please already. Our government is corrupt and plays us like the fools we are! Not just answer questions but for any hunch the cops have. I was arrested based on a hunch and being prosecuted based on the hunch with zero evidence against me. Our courts are corrupt and what in the hell can you do about it? Sure you can, good luck with that.

  3. Zooey:

    Please, are you looking to argue about constitutional law? Of course I do not want to see our state/federal government take our rights. I shared the fact my state government took my rights and is wrong as if they took any persons rights. Terry v. Ohio spells out the legal term “Reasonable Suspicion” and now AZ as ruled reasonable suspicion can be found by the color of a persons skin. This is crazy as what happened to my white arse involving the police and as crazy as the corrupt ruling coming from the judge here in this crazy city. OUR RIGHTS are being stripped from under our noses. Is that better for you?

  4. What I do not understand is how the AZ court rules that a hunch is all that is needed. In Terry v. OH the court ruled the officer needs facts and not just hunches. A hunch can come from subjective v objective reasoning. AZ courts sound like they are against people in general not just fence jumpers because it will be turned into a lever for police and law enforcement to stop question and arrest anybody they have hunches about. Scarey isn’t it!

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