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Can a police officer stop me in Utah based on a hunch?

A police officer can stop you and arrest you if he has a warrant. Without a warrant, the officer must demonstrate either "probable cause" or a "reasonable articulable suspicion" of a crime. If you have been arrested, detained, or charged with a crime in Utah, it is important to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Stephen Howard has successfully protected his clients rights in thousands of s, felonies, and misdemeanor charges. Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.

Probable Cause and Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

Salt Lake Motion to SuppressWhile an officer's attention may at first be drawn to a suspect based on a some kind of "gut feeling," before the officer initiates a stop or arrest, the officer must observe articulable facts sufficient to support a finding of probable cause ("PC") or reasonable articulable suspicion ("RAS"). Analysis under the Fourth Amendment for either PC or RAS requires a very fact-specific inquiry.

The act of driving slowly through a neighborhood, by itself, could be merely an indication that the driver is lost or looking for an address. If that fact ombined with other circumstances or observations (e.g. it is 3:00 a.m.ndis driver is wearing a ski mask in the middle of summer), then the officer may have a sufficient basis under the Fourth Amendment for an investigatory stop. If there has been a report of a home burglary just moments before in the immediate vicinity, the officer might have sufficient basis for a warrantless arrest.

A person standing on the corner may simply be waiting for a friend. If the corner is in a "high crime" area, the person is known to police officers as a drug user, and a police officer observes a hand-to-hand transaction with another person, the officer could may have sufficient basis for an investigatory stop.

The concept behind RAS is that the suspicion must be both reasonable and "articulable" - meaning that the officer has to be able to articulate facts that support his suspicion. A "suspicion" that is not based on any articulable facts is often referred to as a "hunch" by the courts. Case law in Utah establishes clearly that a mere "hunch" is not a sufficient basis for a warrantless arrest.

Motion to Suppress Evidence

If evidence is obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, a court may order that such evidence be suppresses. When a motion to suppress evidence is granted, a prosecutor is not allowed to introduce that evidence at trial. This can substantially weaken a prosecutor's cases. In some instances, it may leave the prosecution with insufficient evidence to proceed with the case, and may result in an outright dismissal of the charges.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah

Criminal Defense Attorney Salt Lake CityIf you have been detained, questioned, arrested, or charged with a crime in Utah, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Based in Salt Lake City, defense lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to client throughout Utah. Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.

RELATED QUESTIONS:
How can I find out if I have an outstanding arrest warrant in Utah?
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Will I get a bench warrant if I miss a court date in a Utah criminal case?


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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