What Does Probable Cause Mean?

When it comes to probable cause, a police officer must have facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a suspect is involved with a crime. Probable cause is different from reasonable suspicion, which allows for police to temporarily detain a person in order to complete an investigation. In order to arrest a person, police must have probable cause.

Understanding Your Rights Under The Fourth Amendment

As an American citizen, you are protected from illegal arrests, searches and seizures by police. For example, if you were arrested for DUI, police must have had probable cause in order to stop your vehicle, such as failing to maintain your lane. This traffic offense does not immediately warrant a police officer to begin a DUI investigation. Rather, the police officer must have probable cause to ask you to take field sobriety or breath tests. Examples of probable cause to begin a DUI investigation would be noticing an open alcohol container in your vehicle, slurred speech or the smell of alcohol coming from your vehicle. A police officer cannot have a “hunch” or “suspicion” that you are committing a crime. They must have certain facts that they have observed.

Have Your Rights Been Violated?

In the event that you were arrested, it’s best to contact an experienced defense attorney. There are many procedures police must follow and your rights could have been violated. For instance, if your attorney finds that there was a lack of probable cause at any point during an arrest, any evidence that the prosecution may have collected to use against you could be thrown out in court. And without evidence, the prosecution will not be able to prove to a judge or jury that you are guilty of committing a crime. In every criminal case, probable cause is an important legal standard.

Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you could be facing severe penalties, such as expensive fines, community service, probation and jail time. You’ll also have a criminal record, which can have a negative impact on the rest of your life.