If you’re ever detained by the police, it’s worth understanding the concept of reasonable suspicion and what it means to you.
What is reasonable suspicion?
A police officer may have reasonable suspicion if they believe you are acting suspiciously—in a manner that indicates you are likely involved (or have been or will be involved) in some kind of criminal activity—but they have no concrete evidence to back it up. The judgment of reasonable suspicion can also be made based on visual clues. For instance, if you resemble a criminal suspect the police are after, or if your car matches the description of a get-away car used in a robbery, these can also be considered grounds for reasonable suspicion.
What to expect and how to respond
With reasonable suspicion, the police have the right to pull you over and detain you briefly. They can ask you questions, which you have the right to refuse to answer. They can also request to search your vehicle, which you may also refuse. Refusing either of these things does not automatically create reasonable suspicion. However, if the answers you provide to the police are inconsistent or you exhibit anxious behavior, this could be construed as reasonable suspicion. If they believe you have the potential to lash out violently, they can also perform an over-the-clothes frisk to search for weapons.
It is worth noting that with reasonable suspicion, the police are not allowed to arrest you or secure a warrant. They also may not search or seize anything from you or your property.
If the police detain you on reasonable suspicion, try to remain calm and courteous. If you are arrested, immediately ask to speak to a lawyer, and do not say anything further to the police until you do.