Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion

Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion

Probable cause and reasonable suspicion are two legal concepts that Florida police officers use to decide whether to detain a person and question him/her, make an arrest, as well as search and seize evidence. While both concepts share some similarities, applying each one involves different circumstances. 

First, reasonable suspicion must be established before probable cause. Reasonable suspicion means that any reasonable individual would believe that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is going to be committed soon. 

For instance, an officer on the road observes a motorist driving without his headlights and swerving between different lanes. Based on the officer’s observations – along with law enforcement training and experience on the job – he/she has reasonable suspicion that the driver may be driving while impaired and can pull the vehicle over. 

Reasonable suspicion is not enough to search a person or vehicle, unless they are on school grounds.  Additionally, reasonable suspicion is not enough to obtain a warrant. 

If a person is detained after the police establish reasonable suspicion and it appears obvious that a crime has likely been committed, then an officer has probable cause to make an arrest, search and seize property, or obtain a warrant. 

Returning to the previous example, if the officer notices the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath or inside the vehicle, or notices the driver has difficulty speaking or moving, then the officer has probable cause to arrest the driver for suspected DUI

If the police fail to establish reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause during the course of an arrest, then any evidence gathered is considered inadmissible in court. Without key evidence to obtain a conviction, the case will most likely be dismissed. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested in Miami, let the Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. provide effective and personalized legal representation to help you avoid conviction or serious criminal penalties. Contact us today at (305) 400-0074 to discuss your case. 

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