Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    Philadelphia Criminal Lawyer – Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause in Drug Cases

    Many defendants in Philadelphia drug cases are often arrested after law enforcement finds drugs on their person or in their cars or homes during a search.  If the police conducted the search without a legally valid reason, then the drugs found may be suppressed resulting in the case being withdrawn by the prosecution.

    Related: Prosecution withdraws Philadelphia drug case after top rated Philadelphia criminal lawyer files a Motion to Suppress.  Read more about this recent Philadelphia drug case.

    There are two standards related to search and seizure in Philadelphia drug cases:

    1. reasonable suspicion, and
    2. probable cause.

    Reasonable Suspicion

    Reasonable suspicion is when an officer has sufficient knowledge to believe that criminal activity is at hand.  In terms of the burden of proof, this standard is lower than probable cause.  Whether a police officer has reasonable suspicion to conduct a search depends on the totality of the circumstances.  The court will apply this objective standard based on what the officer observed and the officer’s experience in the area.

    Reasonable suspicion allows stops and questioning by officers to explore their reasonable suspicions that criminal activity is afoot, i.e., the person being stopped was involved in a crime or is about to commit a crime. This is known as a Terry Stop.  If the stop and frisk gives rise to probable cause that a crime was committed, then the police officer can make an arrest and conduct a search of an individual.

    For instance, a police officer dressed in uniform walks by a group of individuals in a high crime area in Philadelphia.  As the police officer gets closer, one of the individuals looks at the police officer and starts to run away.  The police officer has made numerous drug arrests in the area and knows that corner is often a place to sell drugs.  The police officer then chases after the individual, stops the individual and proceeds to pat him down.  The officer cannot search the person; he can only pat him down.  During the pat down, if the police officer feels a gun bulge and/or an object that is similar to a meth bag, the police officer now has probable cause to search the individual.  However, if during the pat down, the police feels nothing, then he cannot search the individual.

    If it is found that the stop and pat down of the individual is unreasonable, then all evidence found resulting from the Terry Stop can be excluded.

    Continue to part II for an article about probable cause.

    Help From an Experienced Criminal Lawyer in Philadelphia

    David S. Nenner has been a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years.  He is an experienced trial lawyer and was named a “Top Rated Criminal Defense Attorney in Philadelphia” by Super Lawyers.  Mr. Nenner always offers FREE consultations.  215.564.0644

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Sentencing for 1st Degree Murder in PA

    In this article below we discuss sentencing for 1st degree murder cases in Pennsylvania. In later articles, we will discuss sentencing for 2nd and 3rd degree murder cases. If you or a loved one is facing murder charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties,...

    Philadelphia Criminal Trials – Evidence Pointing to Another Perpetrator in Drug Possession or Drug Manufacture Cases

    In criminal trials in Philadelphia, one pretty common defense tactic is pointing the finger at another person at trial. This can raise enough doubt to result in a not guilty verdict by the judge or jury that the defendant was not the perpetrator of the crime. Here’s...

    Philadelphia Murder & Gun Possession Cases Increasing in 2021 – A Look at Common Charges & Defenses

    A look at PA criminal law for Murder (1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree), Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Possession of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm Without a License, Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia (misdemeanor).

    Pennsylvania Murder Charges, Deceased Person’s Statements Used to Prove Guilt

    Defense Trial Strategies – Excluding Statements That Accuse the Defendant Prosecutors often look to a deceased individual’s statements made prior to a murder to show that the defendant is guilty. These statements may point to a history of violence between the deceased...

    Pennsylvania (State) Drug Charges, Dog Sniffs & Constitutional Law

    Federal and Pennsylvania state courts treat narcotics dog searches differently. So different that the same scenario could result in different outcomes in federal versus state court. For example, a Philadelphia resident is pulled over for speeding. During the traffic...