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). In fact, the Chief Justice wrote that "[h]eadlong flight-wherever it occurs-is the consummate act of evasion: it is not necessarily indicative of wrongdoing, but it is certainly suggestive of such" (Williams, 2000, p. 381). In this case, the officers were patrolling a high-crime area after news of a robbery. When the four subjects saw the officers, they immediately got into their car and drove away. This act of evasion, combined with the location of the activity, gave the officers completely reasonable suspicion of the need to investigate further. Their pursuit of the individuals was proper and legal.
Reasonable Officer Conduct. Police officers are vested with significant authority over citizens. With that power comes the responsibility to act lawfully and reasonably. When police officers act reasonably and in good faith, they have latitude in the evidence they discover. The law says that any evidence uncovered by an illegal search is not admissible in a court of law. The reason for this rule is to "deter unconstitutional police conduct" (Feinman, 2000, p. 315). It must be noted, however, that even if the police do conduct an unreasonable or unlawful search, the evidence they uncover is still useable in the prosecution of the suspect if the police believed they were acting lawfully. Feinman goes on to point out that when police officers find evidence "in a good faith belief that their acts are constitutionally permissible, the criminal process should not be denied the benefits of using the evidence" (2000, p. 315). Here, the police officers acted reasonably and appropriately. Having encountered the suspects loitering in a high-crime area, then seeing them attempt to evade, the officers made a legal stop. During the course of speaking with the subjects, the officers attempted to discover the truth of why the suspects were in the area. As discussed below, the search of the suspect's