Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are terms that consistently come up in criminal cases. It’s not uncommon for these terms to be used interchangeably but that’s inaccurate.
Reasonable suspicion and probable cause have very distinct definitions. For instance, the former is the burden of proof required to conduct a traffic stop, while the latter is the burden of proof required to conduct searches and make arrests.
Outlined below are some of the more common examples of probable cause.
Probable cause in DUI cases
Law enforcement cannot pull you over randomly or for prejudicial reasons. Nonetheless, they can conduct a traffic stop if they have reasonable suspicion that an offense has been committed. For example, if they believed you were traveling over the speed limit or were driving recklessly, they could pull you over. This wouldn’t be enough to charge you with DUI, though.
To actually charge you with a DUI, law enforcement needs probable cause. Examples of probable cause may include a driver who slurs their words or shows other signs of intoxication. Probable cause may also be present if there are open alcohol containers inside the car.
Probable cause during home searches
Typically, you do not have to let police officers into your home without a warrant. Other than you providing consent, one of the only other exceptions to this is if the police have probable cause.
For example, let’s say law enforcement have been called out to an address because of a violent incident. If they turn up at the door and hear screams from inside and see blood on the walls, this would give them the probable cause required to enter the property.
It’s important to know the distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause if you’re facing criminal charges. Recognizing the differences and having legal guidance behind you could be vital for your defense.