What is Probable Cause?

In order for the police to effect a valid arrest, they must first have what is referred to as “probable cause.” This means that a police officer has an actual reason to arrest a person. A mere “hunch” that the suspect committed a crime does not suffice. Instead, a police officer must conclude, given the totality of the circumstances and their professional training, observations, and experience, that the suspect actually committed the crime.

The standard of probable cause is derived from the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched.” This means that it is each person’s Constitutional right to be protected from searches that have no basis.

However, detentions that do not result in arrest do not require probable cause. For example, in such instances as a traffic stop, or a pedestrian request for information, an officer does not need probable cause. Instead, the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion is used to determine the validity of the stop. In addition to applying the probable cause standard in evaluating a warrantless arrest, a judge will also consider whether there is probable cause before issuing a request for a search or arrest warrant.

A criminal conviction can result in serious consequences. If you believe you have been arrested without probable cause, contact an experienced criminal law attorney who will defend your rights. Contact Wendy Pelle-Beer & Associates at (718) 313-0770 for the representation you deserve.

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