Reasonable Suspicion


Reasonable suspicion is a standard used in criminal procedure. Reasonable suspicion is used in determining the legality of a police officer's decision to perform a search.

When an officer stops someone to search the person, courts require that the officer has either a search warrant, probable cause to search, or a reasonable suspicion to search. In descending order of what gives an officer the broadest authority to perform a search, courts have found that the order is search warrant, probable cause, and then reasonable suspicion. 

Reasonable Suspicion As Applied to a Stop & Frisk

In Terry v. Ohio 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the Supreme Court held that if a police officer believes that an individual has a weapon which poses a danger to the officer, the officer may stop that individual to search the individual for a weapon. The Court held that to determine whether the police officer acted reasonably in the stop, a court should not look at whether he has a hunch, but rather "to the specific reasonable inferences which he is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his experience." 
In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 U.S. 177 (2004), a Nevada state statute "requires a person detained by an officer [during a Terry stop] to identify himself" by providing his name. In Hiibel, the Supreme Court held that because the statute only asked for a name, not identification, and because it did "not alter the nature of the stop itself, changing neither its duration nor its location," the statute "properly balances the intrusion on the individual’s interests against the promotion of legitimate government interests." Thus the Court held that the statute is constitutional.

Further Reading

For more on Reasonable Suspicion, please see this University of Pittsburgh Law Review article, this Indiana University Law Journal article, and this Touro Law Review article