Across North Carolina, law enforcement plays a crucial role in detecting and preventing criminal activity. However, they cannot act in an arbitrary manner. There is a constant balancing act between protecting the individual liberties of citizens and taking proactive measures against crime.
To facilitate this, legislation protects the individual from unlawful searches, seizures and interrogations. In other words, police officers must have reasonable suspicion based on the available facts that a crime has been or is currently being committed.
What does reasonable suspicion mean?
If an officer feels pressured to meet arrest targets and follows mere hunches, this is not enough to follow the reasonable suspicion requirement. If there has been a number of DWI offenses committed in a certain area, officers cannot choose at random people to pull over and interrogate. There must be something more. For instance, if a car is speeding up or braking erratically, or changing lanes in a dangerous fashion, this may count as reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired.
What happens next?
If law enforcement has no reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, then they must leave the person to go about their business. For a legitimate detainment or arrest to take place, there must be probable cause. The law in North Carolina states that law enforcement must have a practical belief that there is incriminating evidence. In other words, they must be of the opinion that criminal activity has likely taken place.
Law enforcement is also subject to the law and regulations governing their conduct. If you feel that your legal rights have been disregarded, it may benefit you to seek further guidance.