What is Reasonable Articulable Suspicion in Florida?

June 24, 2024 Criminal Defense

criminal investigation

Reasonable articulable suspicion (RAS) is more than a mere suspicion or hunch. Whether reasonable articulable suspicion is developed, is based upon the mind of the officer at the time of the observations, information, encounter or investigation. The officer making the decisions and exercising lawful authority must do so just as any reasonable, prudent, cautious officer would in the same circumstances. 

Additionally, the “reasonable” officer must be able to give articulable (capable of expressed, explained and justified) facts supporting their suspicion. An officer must be capable of expressing – either verbally or in writing – specific facts or specific observations or circumstances that gave rise to their suspicion. 

Being accused of a crime or being investigated for a crime can be extremely stressful. If you have been arrested, time is of the essence. Call an experienced, trusted attorney – Don Pumphrey, Jr. owner and founder of the Pumphrey Law Firm with 27 years of experience, a former prosecutor, who is aggressive and trusted. (850) 681-7777.

An officer can be suspicious of anyone or anything. But that suspicion is required to be based on criteria more than a mere hunch or suspicion. The officer must act reasonably, and the suspicion cannot be based upon bias. Just because someone lives in a certain neighborhood – whether affluent or poor – should make no difference. Whether the citizen is located in a residential area or a commercial area also should make no difference as to suspicion. Bias is usually what separates reasonable and non-reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

An officer’s suspicion must be focused on three factors – whether a crime is being committed, a crime is about to be committed, or a crime has already been committed. Reasonable, articulable facts and circumstances can be tested to see if they rise to a level that does not violate a citizen’s constitutional rights. The requirement of reasonable articulable suspicion is a central part of law enforcement searches and seizures under both the U.S. Constitution and Florida Constitution.

Elements of Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

To develop reasonable articulable suspicion to support an investigative stop, an officer must have:

  • Well-founded suspicion: An officer must witness specific, articulable facts or events that would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. Founded suspicion isn’t based on a hunch.
  • Objectively observed: There must be something the officer hears, sees, or smells. An officer can’t stop someone because of race, socioeconomic status, etc.
  • Criminal activity: The suspicion must exist of potential criminal activity, not a civil infraction or other non-criminal conduct
    • Certain cases where an officer might develop reasonable articulable suspicion include:
    • Witnessing something that matches a detailed description of a crime suspect
    • Observing an individual suspiciously trying to break into a car in the middle of the night
  • But there are also cases where an officer would not have reasonable articulable suspicion, such as:
    • Someone matches a generic suspect description
    • An officer thinks something “seems off” or “looks suspicious”
    • Someone is stopped only because they are in a high-crime area

If an officer has reasonable articulable suspicion, that officer may conduct a brief investigative stop that could lead to frisking someone for weapons. See our website’s additional blog articles for more information on “Terry” stops and Stop and Frisk Law in Florida.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

As a former prosecutor, former state police officer and a life member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Don Pumphrey Jr. has observed that being arrested anywhere in Florida can be extremely stressful. Being charged and “formally charged” by information in Tallahassee or Leon County, Wakulla County, Jefferson County, Gadsden County, Quincy, Crawfordville, Florida State University, Florida State University Campus, Florida State University Student Code of Conduct, Tallahassee Community College, Florida A&M University, or facing first appearance in Leon County, can be life changing. Given the possibility of a lengthy jail or in some cases lengthy prison sentence and hefty financial penalties, it is important to contact an aggressive, trusted and experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Don Pumphrey, Jr. and the attorneys at Pumphrey Law have decades of experience fighting on behalf of clients and winning. Call Pumphrey Law now at (850) 681-7777 to learn more about what we can do for you. Our lawyers will be happy to provide you with a free consultation.

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