In New South Wales (NSW), reasonable suspicion is a legal standard used by police officers to conduct certain actions, such as stopping and searching a person or their property, or making an arrest.
Reasonable suspicion means that a police officer has a genuine and reasonable belief, based on objective facts and circumstances, that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. The suspicion must be more than a mere possibility or speculation, but it does not need to be based on direct evidence or proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The standard of reasonable suspicion is lower than the standard of probable cause, which is required for more intrusive actions such as obtaining a warrant to search a person’s home or arrest them. However, the standard of reasonable suspicion is still a significant one, and police officers must be able to articulate specific facts and circumstances that support their suspicion.
It’s important to note that individuals have rights under the law, and if they believe that their rights have been violated during a police encounter, they should seek legal advice.
Examples of reasonable suspicion?
Here are some examples of situations that may give rise to reasonable suspicion in NSW:
1. A police officer observes a person walking around a residential area at night, looking into cars and trying the door handles. Based on this behaviour, the officer may have a reasonable suspicion that the person is attempting to steal from the cars and may stop and search them.
2. A police officer stops a car for a routine traffic check and smells a strong odour of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. Based on this observation, the officer may have a reasonable suspicion that the driver or passengers have drugs in the car and may conduct a search.
3. A police officer receives a report of a recent armed robbery at a convenience store and sees a person nearby who matches the description of the suspect. Based on this information, the officer may have a reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in the robbery and may stop and question them.
It’s worth noting that ‘reasonable suspicion’ is determined on a case-by-case basis, and what may constitute reasonable suspicion in one situation may not in another. Additionally, the circumstances must be considered objectively, and any bias or discrimination on the part of the police officer is not permissible in determining reasonable suspicion.
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*This article correctly reflects the Laws of NSW as at 21st June 2023.
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