Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause 306/Dis1
Original Discussion Question:
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Knowing the distinctions between reasonable suspicion and probable cause are essential, foundational aspects of criminal justice, just as mens rea and actus reus were in your studies last week. Reasonable suspicion is an objective belief by an officer that an investigation needs to be conducted into a potential crime. Probable cause is the standard required for arrest. Keep these distinctions clear in this week’s presentations and in your criminal justice career. Support your claims with examples from the required materials and/or other scholarly resources, and properly cite any references. Your initial post must be at least 300 words in length.
Two commonly confused concepts in criminal law are reasonable suspicion and probable cause. In your post,
- Define and evaluate both of these significant legal terms, and utilize pertinent U.S. Supreme Court opinions to justify your answers.
- Address what happens in court to a criminal case when an officer does not possess reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
Guided Response: Respond to at least two of your classmates’ posts by Day 7. Examine why there are differing standards for a reasonable suspicion to stop and for probable cause. How do these legal terms relate to peoples’ constitutional protections?
*Here is the first classmate to respond to. This is not to critique their work. More so just to discuss further on the subject following what they said.
The two terms reasonable suspicion and probable cause are both different criminal law terms, but both are protected under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”(www.gpo.gov). This gives citizens the right refuse searches unless there is probable cause. Reasonable suspicion would be if an officer witnesses some type of suspicious activity, this would allow for an officer to keep investigating either a vehicle, or individual. An example of reasonable suspicion could range from a numerous amount of things, for instance the smell of marijuana, drug paraphernalia in plain view, could be as small as heavy breathy or nervous behavior.
Now that an officer has reasonable suspicion to investigate further this leads to the second criminal law term probable cause. The level of reasonable suspicion for the officer to keep investigating is really based on the officer’s knowledge and experience. For instance, “This level of proof is applied to police officers and not private citizens. Officers may rely upon their training, experience, and understanding of criminal behavior to come to their conclusion” (11.1). After having reasonable suspicion this means an officer can conduct a search, seize something or make an arrest. If an officer does not have a valid reasonable suspicion then anything found during a search or seizure can be thrown out in court. An example would be if an officer pulls a car over just because that officer has dealt with the individual driving the car and has been previously arrested for soliciting drugs. There has to be a valid reason to pull them over and probable cause to arrest them.
Second student: Christopher Williams