Detentions and Arrests: From Reasonable Suspicion to Probable Cause

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

In our last blog post, we examined a viral video of a Philadelphia police officer detaining a black teenager for standing at a bus stop and summarized some of the salient points of the difference between police detentions and arrests. The reality, though, is that this is a topic that can't be covered in a single – or even a dozen – blog posts. Entire books have been written on the subject.

Here, though, we're going to scratch the surface of one of the most important differences between detentions and arrests – when police can conduct one.

Police Detentions Versus Police Arrests

The job of a police officer revolves around finding evidence that a crime has been committed, and then apprehending the person who seems to have committed the crime.

Gathering the evidence often involves talking with people and the suspect. Apprehending the suspect is much more final, and typically culminates in the arrest.

The whole point of the arrest is to make sure the suspect cannot leave or get away. Detentions, on the other hand, are less invasive, less final, and less controlling.

Reasonable Suspicion Versus Probable Cause

In order to make an arrest, police need to have probable cause to believe that the person under arrest has committed a crime. People often forget that probable cause is far less than the degree of certainty required for a conviction – probable cause involves something like 51% certainty that the person being arrested committed a crime, while beyond a reasonable doubt requires something like 98%.

To detain someone, though, police only need to show that they had a reasonable suspicion that a crime had occurred, or was about to happen. This is even less than the probable cause that is required to make an arrest.

However, that is not to say that police can detain anyone they want, and then later claim that they had a hunch that something was up. They have to be able to articulate that suspicion and back it up with supporting details.

This is where race becomes a serious factor and a problem in policing. With such a low standard for detaining someone without making an arrest, police are often able to come up with a way of adequately articulating a hunch, after the fact. If they know they can justify a detention down the road, police officers looking for evidence of a crime can feel empowered to harass and detain people on something more like a whim than a hunch. The people who they choose to harass are those who they think are the least able and least likely to lawyer up.

Joseph D. Lento: A Philadelphia Criminal Defense Who Holds Police Accountable

Philadelphia is becoming known as a city with a police department that is aggressive and racially insensitive. Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who works daily to hold them in line and protect the people they are accusing of committing a crime.

Call his law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online to get the strong legal defense that you need.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.