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Know your rights; Terry Stop vs. Arrest

Difference between a Police Stop and an Arrest

The differences between a police “Terry stop” and an arrest are important distinctions because your rights change based on whether you are currently in a stop or an arrest.

Not all encounters between an individual and police are seizures governed by the Fourth Amendment. A seizure occurs when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave, or would not feel free to decline the officers’ requests or otherwise terminate the encounter. Brendlin v. Cal., 551 US 249 (2007). A stop, or brief seizure by the police, is justified when the police have reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed a crime or is about to take part in criminal activity. Terry v Ohio., 392 US 1 (1968). A brief stop of police is routinely called a Terry stop. Reasonable suspicion occurs when an officer can point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion. Terry at 21.

Under the Terry Stop doctrine, a police officer has the right to initiate an investigatory stop if the police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in criminal activity. The reasonable suspicion test is not based upon the subjective belief of the police officer, but rather based upon objective facts that existed at the time of the stop, and that such objective facts would allow for police to have reasonable suspicion that the individual was involved in or soon to be involved in criminal activity.  A Terry Stop allows for police to determine whether an arrest should be made, continue their investigation of the individual, or to let the individual go. Since a stop is intended to be for a minimal amount of time and due to the fact, the intrusion is meant to have a minimal effect on a person’s rights, an individual does not need to be informed of their rights.

For a police officer to conduct a valid warrantless arrest, the officer needs probable cause. An arrest is characterized upon a situation where a reasonable person would not feel free to leave due to the actions of police. Probable cause is a heightened threshold for the police to justify a warrantless arrest, and mere suspicion does not meet this threshold. Once an arrest has occurred, an individual’s Miranda rights attach. At this point the police are to provide the individual with the Miranda warnings prior to the police asking any questions to the individual. An arrest is no longer a minimal intrusion on the personal rights of an individual, and thus the police must inform the individual of their rights at the time of the arrest.

If an officer makes a valid stop based upon reasonable suspicion, followed by a warrantless arrest without additional probable cause, the arrest is likely illegal. Further, any subsequent search made by the officer following the arrest is also likely illegal. Items, or “fruits” found during the improper subsequent search are likely inadmissible moving forward.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime contact Lake Shore Legal. Our attorneys can evaluate the circumstances of both your stop and arrest. If either the stop or arrest were done improperly, Lake Shore Legal can assist in protecting your rights. Contact our office and speak to one of our attorneys today.

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