Under the 4th Amendment, the Constitution of the United States requires that police officers have probable cause in order to arrest an individual. As such, probable cause is the legal standard that gives police authority in arresting an individual, searching a person or property, or receiving a warrant for arrest.
What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause has been defined as facts and circumstances, within the police officer’s knowledge, that causes a reasonable person to believe that a crime has or is being committed. Typically, in order to obtain an arrest warrant, a police officer will present their findings of probable cause to a judge, who will either issue or refuse the warrant. However, a police office does not need to have a warrant to arrest an individual for a crime if they can later show that they had probable cause to do so.
Establishing Probable Cause
To establish probable cause, a police officer has to be able to sufficiently explain why they believed that a crime was being committed. In order to meet this threshold, there must be more then a mere hunch on the part of the police officer. Generally, a police officer is legally required to have more than mere suspicion of a crime in order to have probable cause. To show this, a police officer will rely on facts or circumstances to back up the officer’s explanation. However, although a police officer has to show more than mere suspicion, they do not have to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed, the legal standard that courts require for a guilty conviction. Once a police officer has shown that there was probable cause, an arrest is considered valid, even if the arrested individual is later proven to be innocent.
Who Determines Probable Cause?
Although it is a police officer’s responsibility to provide the facts and circumstances showing probable cause, the ultimate decision of whether probable cause is established lies in a judge’s hands. Generally, a judge will decide whether probable cause exists either during the warrant process or in a courtroom hearing following an arrest. Regardless of whether an officer actually believes that probable cause exists, the judge will make the final decision.
If you have been charged with a crime that may have been based on faulty probable cause, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.
James Minick is founder and C.E.O. of Minick Law, P.C. James is committed to providing top notch legal services through his team of highly specialized legal professionals. James will defend your rights.