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How do reasonable suspicion and probable cause differ?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2021 | Drug Crimes |

Facing any charges related to drugs or alcohol can often feel like an inescapable negative change to your entire way of living. However, you can protect your rights by ensuring that all checks and searches happened in accordance with the upheld standards associated with them.

If you faced an unlawful search of your person or property, then it is possible you will have a defensive argument that can end in a reduction of the sentence you face.

What is constitutional muster?

An appeal in the Tennessee courts focuses on an officer’s rights to stop any individual and the definitions therein, specifically focusing on the term “constitutional muster”. In essence, if an officer cannot show evidence that their traffic stop does not violate the constitutional rights of the individual, the stop itself could end up classified as unlawful.

Reasonable suspicion vs. probable cause

As for reasonable suspicion and probable cause, they differ in several ways. Reasonable suspicion exists in situations where the observed conduct of a driver warrants investigation without violating statutes. This can include matters like driving under the speed limit, weaving in your lane or stopping too long at stop signs. These can provide grounds to hold “brief, investigatory traffic stops” because the behavior is unusual but not unlawful.

Probable cause exists in situations where an officer witnesses a clear violation of a law or has evidence of a previous violation. This can include running traffic lights or weaving dangerously through multiple lanes of traffic.

If officers do not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to pull you over, then the stop itself could end up classified as illegal, and the court might deem any following searches unconstitutional.