3 examples of probable cause

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Criminal Defense

There are different standards of proof that police officers need before taking certain actions. For example, law officers need reasonable suspicion before they can pull a vehicle over on a traffic stop. 

Reasonable suspicion means that officers may not yet have solid evidence, but they have good reason to believe that an offense has been committed. For example, if a car is straying over the center line repeatedly or an individual has just been seen running away from a crime scene. 

Probable cause, however, is the higher standard of evidence required to conduct arrests and other types of invasive actions. Outlined below are three examples of probable cause

1. Probable cause during a traffic stop 

As mentioned, police officers can pull a driver over if they have reasonable suspicion. Nonetheless, without further evidence, they may have to let the driver go. During a traffic stop, officers will typically look for evidence in plain view as well as assessing the conduct of the driver. 

If they see drug paraphernalia through the window of the car, then this could amount to probable cause. If the driver fails a roadside breathalyzer test, this is also probable cause. 

2. Probable cause at a residence 

Often, the police will want to search a property. It is important to note that they can only do this under certain conditions. Firstly, they can do so if the property owners give them consent. A search can also be conducted if the police have a valid search warrant. The police may also be entitled to search a property if they have probable cause. For instance, if they hear gunshots or screaming from inside the property upon arrival, this is an emergency situation that most likely amonuts to probable cause. 

3. Probable cause in public 

The police are not allowed to unjustly interfere with the liberty of citizens. They can ask someone to stop and talk to them, but without probable cause, that individual will generally be free to leave. 

If an individual loosely matches the description of a suspect, then this may not amount to probable cause. However, if an individual suspected of armed robbery is found carrying a weapon and matches a precise description, this would be probable cause and an arrest could be made. 

If you suspect that you have been treated improperly and are facing charges, seeking legal guidance will help you create a defense strategy.