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In
law enforcement jargonLaw enforcement jargon refers to a large body of acronyms, abbreviations, codes and slang used by law enforcement personnel to provide quick concise descriptions of people, places, property and situations, in both spoken and written communication. Th ...
, a suspect is a known person accused or suspected of committing a
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

crime
. Police and reporters in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
often use the word suspect as a jargon when referring to the perpetrator of the offense (perp in dated US slang). However, in official definition, the perpetrator is the robber, assailant,
counterfeiter Office of Field Operations agent checking the authenticity of a travel document at an international airport An international airport is an airport An airport is an aerodrome with extended facilities, mostly for commercial air tra ...
, etc.—the person who committed the crime. The distinction between suspect and perpetrator recognizes that the suspect is not ''known'' to have committed the offense, while the perpetrator—who may not yet have been suspected of the crime, and is thus not necessarily a suspect—is the one who did. The suspect may be a different person from the perpetrator, or there may have been no actual crime, which would mean there is no perpetrator. A common error in
police report
police report
s is a
witness In law, a witness is someone who has knowledge about a matter, whether they have sensed it or are testifying on another witnesses' behalf. In law a witness is someone who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, provides testimonial evidence, e ...
description of the suspect (as a witness generally describes a perpetrator, while a
mug shot A mug shot or mugshot (an informal term for police photograph or booking photograph) is a Portrait photography, photographic portrait of a person from the shoulders up, typically taken after a person is arrested. The original purpose of the mug s ...
is of a suspect). Frequently it is stated that police are looking for the suspect, when there is no suspect; the police ''could'' be looking for a suspect, but they are surely looking for the perpetrator, and very often it is impossible to tell from such a police report whether there is a suspect or not. Possibly because of the misuse of "suspect" to mean "perpetrator", police in the late 20th and early 21st century began to use
person of interest "Person of interest" is a term used by law enforcement in the United States, Canada and other countries when identifying someone possibly involved in a criminal investigation Criminal investigation is an applied science that involves the study ...
, possible suspect, and even possible person of interest, to mean suspect. Under the judicial systems of the U.S., once a decision is approved to
arrest An arrest is the act of apprehending and taking a person into custody (legal protection or control), usually because the person has been suspected of or observed committing a crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act p ...

arrest
a suspect, or bind him over for
trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...
, either by a
prosecutor A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by co ...
issuing an
information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to c ...
, a
grand jury A grand jury is a jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartial Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objectivi ...
issuing a
true bill A grand jury is a jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartial verdict (a finding of fact on a question) officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a sentence (law), penalty or Judgment (law), ...
or
indictment An indictment ( ) is a criminal accusation A criminal accusation is the process of declaring one's belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psycholog ...
, or a
judge A judge is a person who presides over court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In th ...

judge
issuing an
arrest warrant An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a judge A judge is a person who presides over court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized c ...
, the suspect can then be properly called a
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
, or the accused. Only after being
convicted In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described ...
is the suspect properly called the perpetrator.


See also

*
Arguido''Arguido'' (male, ) or ''arguida'' (female, ), normally translated "named suspect" or "formal suspect", is a status in Portuguese type legal systems, including those of Portuguese legal system, Portugal, Angola and Mozambique. It is given to a pe ...
*
Criminal In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

Criminal
*
Perp walk A perp walk, walking the perp,The term "perp In law enforcement jargonLaw enforcement jargon refers to a large body of acronyms, abbreviations, codes and slang used by law enforcement personnel to provide quick concise descriptions of people, ...


References

{{Criminal procedure Law enforcement terminology Criminals by status