Probable Cause Explained

Probable cause is a significant part of the arrest process. It is a term that law enforcement officers rely upon to support their reasons for arresting a suspected criminal or obtaining evidence pertaining to a suspected crime. The term can be defined as having an objective belief that a crime has been committed and that a particular person is responsible for that crime. Having probable cause is what motivates a police officer to make an arrest or carry out a search.

It is important to note that just “suspecting” a crime is being or was committed, or that a particular person is responsible, is not sufficient to claim probable cause. While it doesn’t mean there must be outright certainty, there must be ways to substantiate probable cause.

Probable cause is vital in many circumstances such as:

Obtaining an arrest warrant – If a law enforcement officer wishes to arrest someone for allegedly committing a crime, they must be able to provide enough evidence that there is probable cause for doing so. This evidence would be submitted to a magistrate who determines whether there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause and if so, the requested warrant will be granted.

Arresting without a warrant – Law enforcement officers often must make quick decisions and can detain individuals suspected of committing a felony without first obtaining an arrest warrant, providing they have probable cause. It is up to the arresting officer to also demonstrate why obtaining an arrest warrant before the arrest was not possible.

Obtaining a search warrant – The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, if a law enforcement officer believes that evidence about a crime can be found in a particular location, they can apply for a search warrant, and in doing so must provide proof of probable cause. If they cannot, the magistrate may deny the search warrant.

Searching without a warrant – There are occasions where a law enforcement officer can search and seize without obtaining a search warrant first. Automobile searches can take place if there is probable cause that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime that could quickly be moved or destroyed. Similarly, if the evidence is in “plain view” or the law enforcement officer believes that the evidence may be removed or destroyed before they can obtain a search warrant, they can claim probable cause to search and seize without one.

Why is probable cause so important?

If a person is arrested for an alleged crime without probable cause, the prosecution has an ethical obligation to dismiss the case. The same is true if evidence is obtained or an automobile search carried out without probable cause. Understanding the basics of probable cause is vital, and if a person is arrested and believes that the arresting officer had no probable cause to do so, this could help them defend the charges against them.

Seeking out an experienced attorney to help make sure that your rights are protected can help get your case dismissed. Contact the professional attorneys at The Greg McCollum Complete Legal Defense Team for a consultation today.

Written by Greg McCollum CLDT

Greg McCollum CLDT

At the Complete Legal Defense Team we represent, assist, and defend people who are accused of crimes. Being accused of a crime is a harrowing experience. You experience public shame and humiliation and do not know where to turn for help. We are experienced and knowledgeable and will take immediate steps to begin repairing your life. We evaluate how the allegation affects your reputation in the community, how it affects your time and your life, and how it will affect you financially. Believe it or not, many people who are arrested and charged with crimes are innocent.