probable cause comes from the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and refers to
a requirement that police have a sufficient reason to conduct a search,
seize property, or make an arrest. Since probable cause is a somewhat
abstract idea, the amount of probable cause that officers need to conduct
an arrest, search, or seizure can be subjective, and a judge has the final
word on whether it exists in a given situation.
Probable Cause for an Arrest
Police officers must have an adequate reason to arrest someone, meaning
that they must have some evidence that a person has committed, is committing,
or is about to commit a crime. This evidence must include specific circumstances
or facts, and cannot exclusively be based on a suspicion or hunch.
Detentions, however, including temporary vehicle or pedestrian stops, only require
reasonable suspicion. This means that under the circumstances, a reasonable person would believe
that criminal activity may be in play and that further investigation is
While the amount of probable cause needed for an arrest is rather subjective,
a judge must agree with the police officer in order for it to be valid.
Probable Cause for a Warrant
In order for a police officer to obtain a warrant, they must sign an affidavit
explaining why they believe probable cause exists to either arrest someone
or search their property. A judge will then review the affidavit and issue
the warrant if they are in agreement with the officer.
In some cases, warrants are not required. These include when an officer
witnesses a felony in a public place, pulls over a driver believed to
be breaking a law, or when an officer searched property after a lawful
arrest. If an arrest was made without a warrant, the officer must still
show probable cause after the fact, and the defendant cannot be prosecuted
until probable cause is established.
Probable Cause for Search and/or Seizure
Before an officer can search or seize someone’s property, they must
have a legitimate reason to believe that the items in question are stolen,
contraband, or evidence of a crime. Police must obtain a warrant before
the search and seizure can take place. Any evidence obtained without a
warrant cannot be used against the defendant in court because the search
was illegal and subject to the “exclusionary rule.”
Facing Criminal Charges?
Are you being charged with a crime, but believe that your arresting officer
acted on insufficient evidence? Police officers and municipalities can
be sued for malicious prosecution or false arrest if they did not have
probable cause to arrest you or search your property. Remember that suspicions
alone are not enough to arrest you. Police officers have a duty to abide
by our nation’s belief in protecting innocent people until they
are proven guilty. For the aggressive representation you need to safeguard
your rights, do not hesitate to
contact the St. Louis criminal defense lawyers at the Hammer Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation.