Veteran Police Officers and Three-Dollar Steaks: The Subjective/Objective Dimensions of Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion

30 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2009 Last revised: 3 Nov 2009

Date Written: June 25, 2009

Abstract

This Article addresses two issues surrounding probable cause and reasonable suspicion that test the line between subjective and objective standards in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence: the extent to which a particular police officer’s training and experience ought to be considered in measuring probable cause and reasonable suspicion, and the relevance of the officer’s subjective beliefs about the presence of a weapon in assessing the reasonable suspicion required to justify a frisk. Although both questions have split the lower courts and remain unresolved by the Supreme Court, the majority of courts treat them inconsistently, recognizing the importance of an officer’s training, experience, and even knowledge in making probable cause determinations but ignoring her actual beliefs about the absence of a weapon in evaluating the permissibility of a frisk. This Article maintains that there is a connection between the two concepts and rejects the prevailing view that the former is a permissible objective consideration and the latter an impermissible subjective inquiry. Rather, the Article equates the two scenarios, concluding that just as a particular police officer’s knowledge, training, and experience can help inform the probable cause analysis, so too the officer’s subjective belief that a suspect is unarmed should be considered in deciding whether she had the reasonable suspicion necessary to frisk.

Keywords: Criminal Procedure, Fourth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Kinports, Kit, Veteran Police Officers and Three-Dollar Steaks: The Subjective/Objective Dimensions of Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion (June 25, 2009). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Forthcoming; Penn State Legal Studies Research Paper No. 21-2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1425781

Kit Kinports (Contact Author)

Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
Room 335
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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