Reasonable suspicion is when an officer reasonably believes that criminal activity may be occurring by a particular person or persons. The officer has permission to investigate the person(s) as long as if she has an objective suspicion (by looking at the facts) that the individual in question may be engaged in some form of criminal activity. If an officer has reasonable suspicion, then she may detain the suspicious person. The officer may also pat the suspicious person down if she has reasonable belief and fear that the he or she has weapons. While patting the suspect down, the officer may only look for weapons. If during the pat down the officer, based on her training and experience, can feel that the suspect has drugs on her body, the officer may seize the drugs, and arrest the suspect (because at that point, probable cause has developed a higher standard than reasonable suspicion). However, the officer may not intentionally feel for drugs or feel further on the objects on the persons person, in order to see if those objects are drugs.
Should Reasonable Suspicion Be Stricter for Police Officers?
I have mixed feelings about the reasonable suspicion standard. In my opinion, I am not sure if reasonable suspicion is enough to justify approaching a potential suspect. I understand that there has to be a way to question potential suspects. Probable cause will not always exist on its face. I understand that. However, I also feel that reasonable suspicion will be, and has been abused by officers.
There are certain individuals who are going to be reasonably suspicious to officers just by the way that they look. I personally do not even feel that it is always an intentional thing or a racist thing. In fact, I think that it is a fear thing. I think that there are definitely some officers who may be racist or just plain cruel. However, I just think that a lot of them get more scared than anything else.
It is very easy to see someone in a neighborhood that the officer deems as bad, and make incorrect assumptions. As a result of being in that neighborhood, the officer may automatically conclude that reasonable suspicion exists because that person is out too late or looks suspicious outside of a convenience store. Once the officer determines that reasonable suspicion exists, even if it does not, the officer can detain the person and find probable cause to arrest him or her.
How do we know if the officer really had reasonable suspicion, or if he or she was just assuming things based on his or her own insecurities about the neighborhood? How do we know that the officer did more than just a pat down? How do we know that their suspicions were not just based on a physiological bias or fear? That fact of the matter is we dont. That is why I feel that we need a stricter standard for reasonable suspicion. It is too easy for officers to develop reasonable suspicion based on the way that a person looks, or the neighborhood that he or she lives in.
Do you think that reasonable suspicion is enough? Do you think that it is even possible to create a stricter standard for reasonable suspicion? What kind of standard would you create if you could? If you happen to know someone who was wrongfully arrested because of reasonable suspicion, you can contant a bail bonds company to get them out of jail and then the right attorney to fight the case.