“Reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” are two critical concepts in US criminal procedure. These two concepts determine whether the police have the authority to search you, arrest you, or detain you. If the police get it wrong, your attorney could get evidence suppressed, win you an acquittal, or secure a favorable plea bargain.
In St. Paul, both federal law and Minnesota law apply. Both reasonable suspicion and probable cause arise from the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Minnesota Constitution is subordinate to the federal constitution, and it cannot take away any federal constitutional rights. It can, however, grant additional rights to Minnesota criminal defendants.
Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause
Reasonable suspicion is the legal standard that a police officer must meet to “stop and frisk” you for a weapon or to pull you over for DWI. An officer cannot base reasonable suspicion on their subjective feelings, but must rely on objective facts. Weaving or turning without using your turn signal, for example, might be enough to constitute reasonable suspicion and justify pulling you over for DWI.
Probable cause means evidence that is not necessarily proof, but something more than just reasonable suspicion. The police need probable cause to arrest you, to obtain a search warrant, or to search your home.
For probable cause to exist, the evidence against you must be strong enough to convince a “reasonable person” that you have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime, or that evidence of a crime can be found at the location to be searched. Failing a field sobriety test (walking in a straight line, for example) might provide probable cause to arrest you for DWI.
Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion: Remedies for the Violation of Your Rights
When the police ignore probable cause and reasonable suspicion restrictions on their behavior, the legal consequences are significant. Your attorney can demand that the court suppress any evidence that was uncovered through the violation of your rights.
If the prosecution lacks enough remaining evidence to convict you, your case will be dismissed and you will walk free.
Under certain circumstances, such as a racially motivated arrest that lacked probable cause, you can even file a federal civil lawsuit seeking money damages or an injunction (a court order demanding that the government act or refrain from acting as specified in the order).
Now Is Not the Time to Hesitate
It is never a good idea to represent yourself in a criminal proceeding. But it’s not much better to retain an attorney who lacks experience in criminal defense. Instead, you should retain an experienced St. Paul criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible. Never forget: missing a critical deadline could irreparably damage your defense.
At Arechigo & Stokka, we know how to fight back against aggressive St. Paul prosecutors. We will do what is necessary to protect our clients. The sooner we begin preparing your defense, the better your chances will be. Feel free to contact us online or call us at 651-222-6603 for a free initial consultation.