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What is the Difference Between Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion?

Our Atlanta criminal defense lawyers explain the important differences between probable cause versus reasonable suspicion and how they could impact your criminal case. 

If you have been charged with any type of crime in Georgia, it is important to get legal help immediately. At Ghanayem & Rayasam, our Atlanta criminal defense lawyers can review the circumstances surrounding your arrest and the evidence collected against you, whether police, prosecutors, or judges relied on reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause. Find out the difference between the two and how it applies to your case.

Reasonable Suspicion Versus Probable Cause

Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are common phrases in criminal court proceedings. However, there are important differences between them that can have major impacts on your criminal case.

As the name implies, reasonable suspicion means that police, judges, or prosecutors have some reason to believe you were engaged in criminal activity. In contrast, probable cause involves more than just suspicion. It requires clear and objective evidence that a crime has been committed and that you were involved. For example:

  • If police officers see you swerving while driving down the road, they have reasonable suspicion that you may be under the influence, justifying a traffic stop.
  • Once pulled over, if there are empty beer bottles in your vehicle and the smell of alcohol on your breath, they have probable cause to make an arrest.

How does probable cause apply in other types of criminal cases? Under the Georgia Criminal Code, there must be probable cause for a judge to issue a warrant against you. This applies to both search warrants, authorizing police to search your person or property and gather evidence against you, and arrest warrants, authorizing them to take you into custody. Warrants issued based on reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause are more likely to be thrown out in court. 

Ensuring Probable Cause in Your Criminal Case

If you are arrested or face any type of criminal charges in Fulton County, it is important to have our Atlanta criminal defense attorneys review your case to ensure there was probable cause.

Conducting a search of your person or property and seizing evidence without a valid and justified warrant or otherwise without probable cause violates your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment also protects you against arrest without probable cause. Implications this can have in your criminal case include:

  • Evidence collected against you may be inadmissible in court;
  • The criminal charges against you may be dropped or reduced;
  • If you were detained, you might be subject to immediate release;
  • In cases involving clear rights violations, you may be entitled to file a civil lawsuit against those involved.

Contact Our Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

At Ghanayem & Rayasam, we can review the circumstances surrounding your arrest to determine if there was probable cause. To protect your rights, contact our Atlanta criminal defense lawyers and request a consultation today.