Reasonable suspicion is a term that relates to criminal justice. If you are a driver, you need to have a good understanding of reasonable suspicion because it does also relate to you. In particular, reasonable suspicion is relevant for anyone accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What Is Reasonable Suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is exactly what it sounds like. Police officers cannot investigate a citizen unless they have a reason to be suspicious. When related to driving, police officers cannot pull someone over unless they have a good reason. Essentially, a police officer cannot pull you over hoping to find out later that you have broken the law. Examples of things that count as reasonable suspicion include:
- Colliding with objects or other cars
- Breaking the rules of the road
- Driving erratically
- Starting or stopping suddenly or driving slowly
If a police officer does not have reasonable suspicion, nothing that they discovered after pulling you over can be used in court. Specifically, all his invalid evidence is called “inadmissible in court.” Even if the police officer discovers that you have broken the law, you cannot be convicted if you were pulled over without reasonable suspicion.
What Is Probable Cause?
It is also very important to understand probable cause, which is different from reasonable suspicion. You cannot be legally arrested unless the police officer has probable cause, even if there is reasonable suspicion. Probable cause is only present if there is evidence of a crime being broken. Examples of things that count as probable cause include:
- A failed sobriety test
- Admission of guilt
- Drunken behavior
The process should proceed like this: The police officer has reasonable suspicion and so he or she pulls a driver over. Then, the police officer finds probable cause and so he or she makes an arrest. If this happens out of order, the defendant cannot be charged.
Paradoxically, resisting arrest is a crime, so even if there is no probable cause, you should not resist arrest. Even if you broke no laws, you can still be found guilty of resisting arrest. For this reason, you should never resist if a police officer tries to arrest you, regardless of whether there is reasonable suspicion or probable cause. You simply need to trust that the court will discover these illegal actions and throw the case out. If you are arrested, the very first step you should take is to hire a DUI attorney in Washington, DC to defend you in court.
Thanks to The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and probably cause.