The Fourth Amendment to the US protects citizens from unlawful and unreasonable searches and seizures. The law protects their ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects.’
However, for legal proceedings, the police can search and seize your belongings if they have a probable cause.
Here’s what means:
A brief introduction
A probable cause is a criminal procedure requirement that establishes that the police have a reason to believe that a person has or will commit the said crime. The probable cause must exist before an arrest warrant is issued. The magistrate or the judge can’t sign the arrest or search warrant if the officer can’t convince them.
To form the basis of a probable cause, the officer should have sufficient knowledge of facts regarding the suspect and the crime. A probable cause is never based on mere suspicion. A police officer can’t search your property just because they think you might be guilty. Even a reasonable doubt doesn’t qualify.
In most cases, the court itself employs a test to check whether the probable cause exists or not. The court checks whether another individual of reasonable intelligence would believe along the same lines as the officer.
Sources of a probable cause
To effectuate an arrest, four basic categories of evidence can help an officer validate their probable cause:
- Observation: Random observations don’t count. An observation will only count as valid if the officer hears, smells, or sees anything that indicates that the crime was committed. These include anything in the ‘plain smell’ or ‘plain view’ of an officer. If the police officer is standing near a vehicle and see a bottle in plain view, they’ll have a probable cause to believe that the suspect was driving under the influence of an intoxicant.
- Expertise: An officer can also use their year of experience, training, and expertise to decide if a certain movement indicates criminal activity. For example, if the officer is an expert in drug paraphernalia, they could tell that a certain item was used in a drug crime.
- Circumstantial evidence: The officer can also base their judgment on indirect evidence that suggests that some sort of criminal activity has taken place. For example, if an officer is investigating the case of a robbery and finds someone running away from the scene with bags in their hands, they might have a probable cause for the crime.
- Information: Any reliable information coming from witnesses, victims, or another informant can also help the officer form a probable cause.
If you feel like there were no legal grounds behind your arrest and that you’ve been wrongly detained, keep calm! We don’t recommend fighting it out by using force. You can always take the legal route and challenge the arrest in the court. Meanwhile, DeLaughter Bail Bonds can help you ensure your bail.