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Criminal Defense Attorneys in Fayetteville NC: Reasonable Suspicion
December 4, 2014
Was My Stop Legal?
In the field of criminal defense, the most pivotal factor of a case is often whether the defendant’s interaction with law enforcement amounts to an illegal seizure. In plain terms, did the law enforcement officer have a right to stop the person he ultimately charged? This question arises in the evaluation of cases ranging from Driving While Impaired to Drug Trafficking and the answer can often mean the difference between a guilty verdict and the complete dismissal of charges.
In evaluating whether a person’s seizure was legal under the law, the answer usually centers on the elusive legal notion of reasonable suspicion. Assuming a stop occurred, the question becomes did the law enforcement officer have reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant? The United States Supreme Court decided many years ago in the case of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968), that a law enforcement officer may conduct an investigative stop of a person when the officer “observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot.” In other words, can the officer articulate, from his own perspective and experience, factors which lead him to believe criminal activity was occurring? This seemingly straightforward question has become a highly debated issue since the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1968 leading to a massive index of case law which creates the framework for today’s legal analysis.
The concept of whether reasonable suspicion exits is simple enough in the context of a stop based on a Chapter 20 traffic violation such as speeding or failure to stop at a stop sign. In these cases, the law enforcement officer can easily justify why he or she stopped the defendant. The concept of reasonable suspicion becomes much more complex in the context of a stop based upon a person’s presence in a high crime or drug area or when the stop is based upon information provided from a tipster or informant. In these cases, the law becomes very particular and the specific facts of a defendant’s case become the decisive factor.
Whether you have been charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, driving while impaired, or felony possession of drugs, your case may hinge on the question of whether the stop by law enforcement was justified under the law. Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys in Fayetteville NC at Beaver Courie Sternlicht Hearp & Broadfoot for an experienced and honest evaluation of your case.
For more information on reasonable suspicion and pretextual stops, visit the School of Government’s website here.
For more information contact Criminal Defense Attorneys in Fayetteville NC, David T. Courie, Sr., Mark L. Hearp, or Cristina S. Quantock at 910-323-4600 or 910-875-3379.
Fayetteville NC 28301
F: (910) 323-3403
127 W. Edinborough Ave.
P.O. Box 688
Raeford, NC 28376
P: (910) 875-3379
F: (910) 875-4030