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Reasonable Suspicion, Probable Cause, and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: What is the Difference and How Might Each Affect Your Case?

 Posted on September 28, 2016 in Criminal Law

probable cause, reasonable doubt, illinois criminal lawyerWhen it comes to criminal cases, there are three basic phrases that are often confused: reasonable suspicions, probable cause, and beyond a reasonable doubt. The following provides an overview of what these terms really mean and how they may affect your case. Any or all may be used, and the legal requirements for each are different, so be sure to consult with our criminal defense lawyers for a more in-depth understanding of how each term may or may not apply in your situation.

Reasonable Suspicion

Of all the terms used to describe the events that may lead up to an arrest, reasonable suspicion is the least demanding in terms of evidence and the reliability of that evidence. It is also where a lot of cases start. Essentially, it requires only that the officer has reason to believe that someone has (or is in the process of) committing a crime. Examples that may be considered valid reasonable cause could include stopping an erratic driver on suspicion of intoxicated driving and weapons frisks if the officer has reason to believe that the person being detained could be armed and dangerous.

This is one of the more difficult concepts to combat in a criminal case because of its loose requirements. For example, even though an officer may have wrongfully profiled an individual because of their race or the kind of car they were driving, if they have a justifiable reason for doing so, the frisk or temporary detainment that led to a procurement of evidence may be difficult to suppress. That does not mean it is impossible – just more difficult.

Probable Cause

Still a somewhat obscure phrase with loose guidelines, probable cause is considered a step up from reasonable suspicion. It essentially requires that certain rights (i.e. your right to expect certain privacies in your own home) may not be infringed upon unless law enforcement has "probable cause" to perform search or seizure. This is much less demanding than the evidence needed to convict "beyond a reasonable doubt." It only requires that there be just enough evidence to support law enforcement's suspicion of a crime.

Probable cause is used to obtain warrants to search a home, business, vehicle, or another private establishment. However, it may also be used to search a vehicle without the use of a warrant. If your vehicle was searched without your consent and without a warrant, talk to an attorney who can help you determine if the officer had enough evidence to justify probable cause.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

This is the strictest of legal terms, and it is a Constitutional protection to prevent wrongful convictions of innocent persons. It means that, in order to convict someone of a crime, there must not be even the smallest shred of doubt that you might be innocent. If you are facing criminal charges, our seasoned criminal defense lawyers will examine your case carefully for this doubt and then present it to the court to gain leverage in your case.

At our firm, our lawyers stand behind the Constitution and the protections that it offers to Americans. Dedicated to your best interests, we will aggressively defend your rights, including your right to be considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No matter what the situation, our Wheaton criminal defense attorneys will fight for the most favorable outcome possible in your case. Call 630-871-1700 schedule an Initial Attorney Meeting today.


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Call Us630-871-1700

1737 South Naperville Road, Suite 100
,Wheaton, IL 60189

250 W. River Drive, Unit 2A
,St. Charles, IL 60174

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