Understanding Probable Cause

Probable cause is a well known, but often misunderstood term, that comes from the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. This amendment states the following:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the persons or things to be searched.”

What this means is that before a court issues an arrest warrant, or to search or seize any property, there must be probable cause. Unfortunately, many people are violated of this right. Furthermore, this is most common when they don’t understand their rights and what probable cause really is. If you believe your rights have been violated, and you are facing drug charges, please call a drug possession lawyer now. 

Understanding Probable Cause

In order for probable cause to be established, law enforcement must cite objective facts or circumstances which led to believe the defendant, or suspect, committed the crime. Law enforcement cannot arrest someone based upon a gut feeling. If no facts were used to support their reasoning, and an arrest resulted, a drug possession lawyer might ask the judge to dismiss the case on the grounds of rights violations. 

In all cases, it will be up to a judge to determine whether or not probable cause exists. Even when an arrest happened without a search or warrant, the judge will review the case and decide whether the arrest was valid and legal. It must be noted that the arrest of an innocent person is not illegal. If a police officer genuinely believed the person was guilty, a judge could very well agree with them. 

Probable Cause to Warrant a Search

When law enforcement has ample facts or circumstances that leads them to believe a crime has taken place, or there is enough evidence to suggest a crime exists, there will likely be enough probable cause to search the area. 

Depending on the situation, a warrant may need to be obtained; however, in other scenarios, a search may be conducted without a warrant. 

Warrantless searches may include the following:

  • The person who is being searched, or is in charge of the area being searched, gives their consent
  • The search is related to a lawful arrest
  • The safety of the public is at risk
  • There is a risk of losing evidence
  • The items being searched are stolen
  • There are illegal drugs or weapons in plain view

Probable Cause for an Arrest

If law enforcement has enough facts that leads them to believe a person committed a crime, or is about to commit a crime, they will likely have probable cause to arrest them. Sometimes police will choose to get an arrest warrant; however, warrantless arrests are more common. An example of a warrantless arrest might be when a person drove through a stop sign without stopping. Police pulled them over and noticed multiple bags of white powder thought to be cocaine. In this case, they could arrest the driver for possession of drugs. It would be in this person’s best interest to call a drug possession lawyer. 

Lawyers Challenge Probable Cause

Drug possession lawyers, like one of the criminal lawyers in Elizabeth, NJ from Rispoli & Borneo, P.C. have successfully challenged law enforcement officers claims of probable cause. Many cases have been dismissed or resulted in reduced sentences. If you believe your rights were violated or you were arrested without any probable cause, call a drug possession lawyer now.