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Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion

You’ve probably heard a lot about probable cause in criminal cases, but do you know how that differs from reasonable suspicion? Let’s go over these two similar terms and how they relate to an officer’s right to make an arrest.

Defining Terminology

Reasonable suspicion is when police officers use common sense to suspect that an individual has committed or will commit a criminal offense. There must be facts present to support the suspicion; it cannot just be a gut feeling. If police officers have valid, reasonable suspicion, they are allowed to briefly stop and question an individual. For example, if a driver is driving erratically, they can pull them over to further investigate the situation. Still, the facts present for reasonable suspicion alone are not enough to issue a warrant or make an arrest.

Probable cause is when there is enough evidence for the officer to make an official arrest. For example, if the driver from the above example fails a breath test, that gives probable cause for them to be arrested for DUI.

If You’re Arrested Without Probable Cause

If the courts find that you were arrested without the police officer or officers having probable cause, your case may be dismissed.

Here is important advice: if you feel that you are being wrongfully arrested, it is important that you do not resist arrest. Even if you are found innocent of the initial crime, or your case is dismissed due to lack of probable cause, you could face additional charges for resisting arrest.

If you believe you were the victim of an illegal arrest, you should take immediate action.

  • Contact an attorney: speak with an attorney and share the details of your arrest that make you believe it was illegal and without probable cause.
  • Take notes: write down everything you can remember about the arrest. Your attorney can use these details to help build your defense.

Miami Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you believe that your arresting officer did not have probable cause, or you are facing additional charges for resisting arrest, contact our defense team at Hager & Schwartz, P.A.. Police officers lacking probable cause is a commonly used defense strategy, and we know how to prove it. If this is true for your arrest, we will do everything in our power to have your case dismissed.