Reasonable Suspicion Can Lead To A Temporary Police Stop

You may have heard the term "probable cause" from a television show, a friend or a legal movie. While it is important in the world of criminal defense, it is not to be confused with the right of police authorities to stop an individual for the purposes of a short investigation. An officer may stop you when there is "reasonable suspicion" to do so.

In a case called Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court had to balance the rights of individuals under the Fourth Amendment and the interests of the state in crime prevention and detection. The result of the ruling was an objective standard that police must abide by when making a decision as to whether to stop or detain someone temporarily.

There is "reasonable suspicion" to stop someone when from the totality of the circumstances and after examining all the relevant facts, those facts point to criminal activity. Even if one of the facts taken alone is innocent, a combination of facts may rise to this level where a stop is appropriate.

Here are some examples of invalid detentions:

  1. Police officers stopping every car on a particular road because they were informed of a robbery. This "dragnet" approach was an invalid application of reasonable suspicion. People v. Glover (1979) 93 Cal. App. 3d 376, 381-383.
  2. Police officers stopping two members of an ethnic minority while walking down the street merely because they received information that two suspects of the same ethnicity were involved in a nearby burglary. In re C. (1978) 21 Cal. 3d 888, 895-899.
  3. Police officers stopping a vehicle because of the fact that it had tinted windows. The judge in that case stated that a tinted window vehicle near a convenience store does not justify suspicion that a robbery is going to take place. People v. Butler (1988) 202 Cal. App. 3d 602, 606-607.

My name is Chris W. Blaylock, and I am a criminal defense lawyer in Santa Monica who has assisted defendants in misdemeanor and felony cases. If you believe that you have been charged with a crime after an unlawful stop, do not hesitate to contact my firm, the Law Offices of C.W. Blaylock. I represent clients in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.