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Interactions with Police

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There are three basic levels of interaction with police; mere encounter, investigatory detention and custodial detention or arrest.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

The U.S. Constitution (Fourth Amendment) and PA Constitution (Article I Section 8) provides three categories of interaction between citizens and the police. A "mere encounter" or request for information need not be supported by any level of suspicion, but carries no official compulsion for a citizen to stop or to respond to the officer's request for information. An "investigative detention" must be supported by a reasonable suspicion; it subjects a suspect to a stop and a period of detention, but does not involve such coercive conditions as to constitute the functional equivalent of an arrest. An arrest or "custodial detention" must be supported by probable cause.  

But the police have to be in uniform, right?

There is no requirement that a state police officer making a stop or an arrest be on duty or in uniform as a prerequisite to a lawful stop or arrest.

If an officer in full uniform with a badge comes up to me, I cannot leave, right?

As long as they do not communicate to you that you are not free to leave.  A seizure does not occur simply because a police officer approaches an individual for the purpose of asking a few questions as long as a reasonable person would feel free to ignore the police and go about his or her business. Encounters of that nature are consensual and no reasonable suspicion is required.

If you've been approached or stopped by the police without any grounds, there may be a basis to file a suppression motion, seeking among other things, the suppression of any and all physical evidence found.  If you have questions about a stop, contact the experienced trial attorneys at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

1 Comment

To feel confident while communicating to police officers, one should keep in his pocket a phone number of good attorney like Jeffrey B. Engle

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