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What Is Reasonable Suspicion?

You have likely heard of reasonable suspicion but many individuals can benefit from understanding it in more depth – particularly if they are put in a situation of interacting with law enforcement officers. Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard by which officers are allowed to ask questions of and frisk an individual they have reason to believe may be committing, has committed, or is going to commit a crime.

There are some defined parameters for what constitutes reasonable suspicion but there is enough gray area surrounding the subject to leave room for abuse of the law. If you or a loved one believe a law enforcement officer has abused reasonable suspicion resulting in wrongful arrest, contact a Raleigh criminal defense attorney at Scharff Law Firm.

What Does and Does Not Constitute Reasonable Suspicion

An officer is only required to be approximately 50% sure that an individual may be committing criminal activity to have reasonable suspicion. Therefore, there is plenty of room for abuse of the law by this standard. The following are appropriate examples of grounds for reasonable suspicion:

  • The individual in question fits the description of a known criminal or wanted person.
  • The individual acts strangely after seeing police.
  • The individual is following patterns of behavior that seem as though a crime is taking place.

The following are examples of unacceptable grounds for reasonable suspicion:

  • The officer is relying solely on a hunch or “gut feeling.”
  • The officer is relying on prejudice or racial profiling.
  • The officer has no reason to believe a crime is being committed beyond how a person or vehicle appears.

How Scharff Law Firm Can Help If You Were Wrongfully Arrested

Attorney Jesse Scharff has built a successful criminal defense law firm in the Raleigh-Durham area, specializing in the areas of alleged crimes related to drugs, driving while intoxicated (DWI), transporting or trafficking illegal substances, abuse, murder, and more. His firm aims to fight for the freedom of innocent parties who have been wrongfully convicted, or given a punishment that does not fit the crime.

  • The sole purpose of the firm is defending the accused to the best of their ability.
  • The attorneys have a combined 20 years of legal experience.
  • Scharff Law Firm has a small team focused exclusively on criminal defense.
  • The firm offers services on a contingency basis, as well as discounted counsel for individuals who are exclusively charged with possession of marijuana.

What to Do If You Are Stopped Under Reasonable Suspicion

In a stop-and-frisk situation based on reasonable suspicion, it is important to note that the officer has grounds to ask questions and frisk for weapons. However, the individual does not have to answer the questions if they appropriately respond that they are going to remain silent and speak to a lawyer, per their Miranda rights. If the officer neglects to read Miranda rights, they could be punished after the fact. An officer of law can only outwardly pat down for weapons and does not have the legal precedence to check for drugs under this law.

If an individual finds his or herself in a situation where they are not sure if they are or are not being detained by law enforcement, the appropriate action is to calmly ask “Officer, am I free to go?” If the question is not clearly answered by the officer, it is appropriate to ask again or to request to remain silent under Miranda rights.

What does and does not constitute reasonable suspicion raises many questions our attorneys can answer. If you or a loved one have experienced abuse from law enforcement or have been wrongfully arrested, contact Scharff Law Firm today for a free consultation.