Suspect Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Suspect, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Suspect?

Someone who is thought to be guilty.

History and Meaning of Suspect

The term "suspect" dates back to the 1590s and is derived from the Latin word "suspictus," which means "regarded with suspicion." In legal terms, a suspect is someone who is thought to have committed a crime or is being investigated as a possible culprit. Being a suspect does not necessarily mean that the person is guilty of the crime but rather that their involvement is being investigated.

In order for someone to be considered a suspect in a criminal investigation, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that the person committed the crime. This suspicion may be based on evidence such as eyewitness accounts, physical evidence, or circumstantial evidence. Once someone is identified as a suspect, law enforcement will typically conduct further investigations to determine if enough evidence exists to charge and prosecute them.

Examples of Suspect

  1. The police identified a suspect in the bank robbery based on surveillance footage from the area.
  2. Jane was a suspect in the murder investigation because of her history with the victim and her location near the crime scene at the time of the murder.
  3. The suspect was released from custody after additional evidence was discovered that supported their alibi.
  4. The witness was unable to positively identify the suspect in a lineup of potential culprits.
  5. The police questioned John as a suspect in the vandalism case but later cleared him of any involvement.

Legal Terms Similar to Suspect

  1. Defendant - Someone who has been formally charged with a crime by a prosecutor.
  2. Person of Interest - Someone who is not yet considered a suspect but may have information relevant to an investigation.
  3. Witness - Someone who has seen or has knowledge of the crime being investigated.