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What is Reasonable Suspicion?

Navigation:  Home > Criminal Law > What is Reasonable Suspicion?


The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and its protections extended to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicle falling short of arrest. A reasonable suspicion determination is made by the totality of the circumstances of each case to see whether the detaining officer had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal wrongdoing. Past cases have recognized reasonable suspicion was a somewhat abstract notion – a deliberate intent to avoid a neat set of legal rules. Rather than viewing incidents in isolation, the proper test is to look at factors as a whole to determine if there is reasonable suspicion.

A police officer can conduct an investigative stop and briefly detain and question a person for investigative purposes when the officer has a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts. Subsequent to a valid Terry stop, a police officer can search the individual for weapons where the officer has reason to believe the person is armed and dangerous. In assessing whether the suspect is armed, the officer doesn’t have to be absolutely certain; the issue is whether a reasonably prudent person in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others was in danger.

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