One Legal Stop

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Facts. During a routine patrol after a robbery, two police detectives observe four men loitering beside a vehicle in an area of predominately abandoned apartment buildings which are located in a high-crime area. Upon seeing the officers, the men quickly move to their car and drive off.


Subsequent questioning reveals that the subjects are offering conflicting statements regarding their presence in the area, and the officers arrest the suspects for loitering and prowling. A search of the vehicle reveals that it contains stolen property from the robbery.
Reasonable Suspicion. While police officers have no right to harass or detain citizens without probable cause, they do have broad latitude in deciding if individuals at a particular scene may be questioned when circumstances warrant a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed. There are two things that contribute to a justifiable cause for reasonable suspicion; the actions taken by individuals when they see police officers and the areas in which they are located when they encounter law enforcement. When a person runs from the police while in a dangerous area, the officers have a duty to investigate. The United States Supreme Court has specifically stated that "mere flight is not enough to create 'reasonable suspicion,' but...when the flight is 'unprovoked' and can be shown to have taken place in a 'high crime area,'" an officer is justified in stopping and frisking the individual (Williams, 2000, p. 381). ...
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