Experienced attorney, Jeffrey Scholnick, discuss how probable cause is necessary to ensure that law enforcement officers conduct arrest and searches without violating citizens’ civil rights.
What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause is a standard used by law enforcement to justify making an arrest, issuing a warrant or conducting a search. The Fourth Amendment requires reasonable grounds for believing that either a crime may have been committed or evidence of a crime may be located in the place to be searched. In some extreme circumstances, probable cause may justify a warrantless arrest or search; however, persons involved in such arrests or searches must be brought before a competent authority for a prompt judicial determination of probable cause.
Establishing Probable Cause
When a person is suspected of a crime, the court may issue a warrant without having the individual located, but rather providing a note to police officers to take the individual into custody when he or she is found. There are circumstances, however, in which a police officer must make a decision to arrest an individual during an incident if the police officer believes that there is enough justification to take the suspect into custody. In this scenario, probable cause would be what determines whether or not such an arrest is lawful. Probable cause is an abstract concept that is determined on a case-by-case basis. Law enforcement officers must be able to point out objective circumstances from which suspicions arise on the basis of “factual and practical considerations” of reasonable or sensible people. Because the definition of probable cause is flexible, judges ultimately determine if probable cause exists.
Unlawful Arrests and Searches
When arrests and searches are conducted without a warrant, the law enforcement officers involved in the case must prove that they acted objectively and not out of a mere hunch or “gut feeling.” Probable cause depends on the totality of the circumstances, so a judge and a jury are often involved in analyzing whether or not the law enforcement officers’ are justified. In the event that courts determine that probable cause did not exist during the arrest or search, the exclusionary rule dictates that any evidence, including confessions and physical evidence, will be inadmissible at trial.
What can I do if I believe I or someone I know was unlawfully arrested?
If you believe that law enforcement officers did not have probable cause to make an arrest or to conduct a search, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. It is important to still cooperate with law enforcement officers; however, a legal professional may help demonstrate the lack of evidence to justify the actions of those involved. Contact the Law Office of Jeffrey Scholnick today for more information about probable cause and violations of civil rights, or for an evaluation of your case.