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Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause


The terms “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” are frequently used when discussing criminal charges in Arizona. These two terms have distinct definitions and implications as far as legal procedure is concerned. Understanding the difference between the two will help you make decisions for how to act if and when you are stopped by a police officer. If you are unsure whether the officer is acting under reasonable suspicion or probable cause, you have the right to remain silent and the right to talk to an experienced Mesa Criminal Defense Attorneyimmediately about the next steps to take.

Understanding Reasonable Suspicion

To put it simply, having “reasonable suspicion” means a person has made an educated assumption about a situation. This is the lowest level of “evidence” necessary to conduct further investigations. For example, if a police officer pulls you over, he must have had a reasonable suspicion that you were speeding, driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated. If you were swerving between lanes, a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These suspicions allow the officer to pull you over and further their investigation. However, these “suspicions” alone do not allow an officer permission to arrest and detain you.

Understanding Probable Cause

Now, if the police officer had a radar gun that told him you were traveling 90 mph, then he would have “probable cause” to believe you committed a crime and he could arrest you for criminal speeding. If you were pulled over for swerving between lanes, an officer would have to administer a breath or blood test to determine if your BAC was .08% or higher. The evidence on the Breathalyzer gives the officer probable cause to arrest you.

When it comes to search and seizure circumstances and the acquiring of search warrants, these distinctions can become a bit trickier. With firm roots from the Revolutionary era, the 4th Amendment has been a vital piece of the Constitution since the colonists implemented it. Colonists were extremely opposed to British customs officers performing biased and unfounded searches, stealing their property on the basis of treason, and overturning their homes. While search and seizure laws today are necessary to ensure people are protected, problems can arise when police officers take action against citizens without probable cause or evidence of a crime being committed.

Hiring a Mesa Criminal Defense Attorney

The distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause can make a huge difference in your criminal case. Hiring Charlie Naegle, an experienced Gilbert Criminal Defense attorney, will ensure you get a fair trial and the legal representation you need to lessen your sentence, prove your innocence, and get your life back on track quickly. Call The Naegle Law Firm today for your free, no-obligation consultation where Charlie will answer all your legal questions.

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