Probable cause is the linchpin in many criminal cases. Police are required to have probable cause to arrest someone or obtain a warrant from a judge.
In establishing probable cause, law enforcement needs to be able to show an objective situation which leads them to believe a suspect has committed a crime. In other words, there must be factual evidence, rather than a hunch, that a person is guilty of a crime.
Whether or not probable causes exists is the purview of the judge who can examine the evidence and may disagree with law enforcement. Much is riding on the judge's decision since probable cause is such an abstract idea and a definition can depend on the person.
In essence, probable cause is the necessary facts or evidence which would bring a reasonable person to believe a suspect has committed a crime. A common example of probable cause includes the sight or smell of illegal substances in plain view or an admission of guilt. It should be pointed out that minor traffic infraction such as speeding, broken tail-lights, or expired registration do not constitute probable cause.
Probable cause usually stems from four different sources:
- Observation of suspicious and potentially criminal behavior
- An officer's experience in elements of criminal activity
- Statements given and information collected by witnesses and informants
- Circumstantial evidence which may imply guilty but which does not prove it
Been arrested? Call the firm today for your free case evaluation—(713) 489-9773!