Reasonable Suspicion VS Probable Cause in Criminal Law; Definitions, Examples & More

In most jurisdictions criminal proceedings in a misdemeanor case is a citable offense, meaning a citation can be issued in lieu of an arrest. Another element is that the person allegating criminal action must observe the misdemeanor being committed in their presence. Therefore, misdemeanors are usually essentially a ‘citizens’ arrest, all the officer does is supervise the procedures in documenting the criminal actions of the suspect.
There are two important legal concepts in the administration of criminal justice. These are reasonable suspicion and probable cause. These concepts are not rigidly defined as to give law enforcement the flexibility to carry out their duty.

What is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion is more than mere a mere guess or hunch but falls short of probable cause. Reasonable suspicion is based upon specific articulable facts and circumstances, and part of the formula is the element of the officer’s combination of experience and training, and although personal experience is a major contributor to establishing reasonable suspicion, the collective body of knowledge retained by law enforcement in general is also supporting factor. Stop and Frisk doctrines fall under reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion allows law enforcement to investigate an incident. Most of these doctrines are more of a concern to the beat cop than the investigative team. Reasonable suspicion is satisfied by the filing of a report by the victim. The constitution is specific as to probable cause in that the persons, houses, papers and effects are protected against unreasonable search and seizures … but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation etc.
Part of definition depends upon the doctrine of the ‘reasonable person.’ The concept is hypothetical and is a person that exercises average care, skill, judgement and conduct and serves a comparative standard for the definition of a reasonable person.

Probable Cause Definition

Probable cause is the facts and circumstances would lead a reasonable and prudent man to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person under scrutiny committed said crime. Not only does the person but property connected to the crime may fall under probable cause doctrine. As can be ascertained, the definition is open to broad interpretation. This allows flexibility to the investigating officer, and the final determination to the validity of probable cause rests with the courts. Probable cause is also a primary element in arrest and search warrants. Although probable cause summarizes all the facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime was committed and by the person(s) named it falls short of surety. The courts determine the veracity of evidence and its relationship to the matter at hand. In the definition of probable cause, the “facts” consist of evidence gathered and witness statements. Most if not all evidence is circumstantial (circumstances) in relation to the matter at hand (the case). Here it is obvious that fictional authors and video entertainment aside, most are convictions are based on circumstantial evidence. The courts, through argument by representing attorneys (the ‘accused’ and the ‘state’) can determine the relevancy of evidence to the alleged criminal conduct. In other words, to a degree in a court of law the ‘truth’ is negotiable.

Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Business Attorneys & More in Greater Las Vegas, Nevada

One last comment on criminal cases. The evidence presented, including testimony must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas in civil court it is the preponderance of evidence. This introduces an element of certainty pertaining as to ‘guilt’ of an individual. One definition comes from the online Farlex dictionary and states, “that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.” If you have been charged with a crime, call Kajioka and Associates Attorneys At Law to best represent you in your case.

Call Now Button