What Is Probable Cause? Why Is It Important?

On behalf of Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. posted in drug trafficking on Friday, September 29, 2017.

To arrest you, search your home or vehicle or to take away your property, the police must have probable cause. Probable cause means that the police must have an adequate reason to perform an action. If they do not, then you could have the case dismissed and potentially file a claim against the police for their mistreatment and errors.

Probable cause is a requirement in U.S. law. It is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, which states that people have the right to be secure in the fact that they won’t be violated, won’t be exposed to unreasonable searches or seizures and won’t have warrants issued against them without just cause.

In some cases, the police seek a warrant before attempting to search a property or vehicle. Other times, they may ask to search a property or vehicle. It is within your right to deny them access if they do not have probable cause or a warrant. Officers don’t need a warrant if they watched a crime take place in public. Keep in mind that even if an officer claims there was cause for an arrest, he or she will need to prove that there was probable cause after you’re taken to the police station. If he or she cannot, then the prosecution won’t be able to file a charge.

What is a probable cause for an arrest?

That depends on the situation. If it’s only a short detention, like a pedestrian stop or car stop, there is no warrant or probable cause needed in most cases. The officers must have reasonable suspicion, though. For example, they must believe you were speeding to pull you over, or they must believe you look like someone who has a warrant out for their arrest to stop you in public.

Without a warrant, there should be no arrest. If you’re taken into custody, you can assert your right to an attorney.

Source: FindLaw, “Probable Cause,” accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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