Legal Standards

Law enforcement officers must understand many different legal standards.

Standards Dealing With Degrees of Proof:


Reasonable Suspicion: The Fourth Amendment permits brief investigative stops when a law enforcement officer has "a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the particular person stopped of criminal activity."  The "reasonable suspicion" necessary to justify such a stop "is dependent upon both the content of information possessed by police and its degree of reliability." The standard takes into account "the totality of the circumstances-the whole picture." Although a mere "'hunch'" does not create reasonable suspicion,  the level of suspicion the standard requires is "considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a preponderance of the evidence," and "obviously less" than is necessary for probable cause.  

Noteworthy Cases
Terry v. Ohio More
Alabama v. White More
Florida v. J.L. More
Navaratte v. California (2014) Police may make traffic stops based on anonymous 911 tips about drunk or reckless drivers. The reasonable suspicion must be based on the "totality of the circumstances." More

Preponderance Of The Evidence:

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt:

Standards Dealing With Police Culpability:

Deliberate Indifference:

Reasonable Person:

Class of one' denial of equal protection: This claim is possible when there is evidence "that the defendant (police) deliberately sought to deprive the plaintiff of the equal protection of the laws for reasons of a personal nature unrelated to the duties of the defendant's position." [vi]  In order for this claim to prevail, however, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had:


no rational reason or motive being imaginable for the injurious action taken by the defendant against the plaintiff, the action would be inexplicable unless animus had motivated it" (emphasis added),...quoting

Board of Trustees v. Garrett,

531 U.S. 356, 367 (2001) [vii]

Intentional infliction of emotional distress:

Standards Dealing With Legal Standards

Common Authority: This standard is used to determine if a resident has the authority to grant permission to search the home. The resident must be more than a mere visitor. Usually this person is the regular occupant of the home. The Government must show, among other things, not only that it reasonably appeared that the person had authority to consent, but also that the person had actual authority to permit the search. The search can only be of common areas and areas where the resident has common access. US v Matlock (1974).