The criminal process is full of complex legal concepts, and one of the most important is probable cause. Probable cause is the standard by which police officers and prosecutors determine whether to make an arrest or bring charges in a case. But what exactly is probable cause? And how does it differ from reasonable suspicion? Here is a quick overview of this crucial legal concept.
What Is Probable Cause and How Does It Differ from Reasonable Suspicion?
Probable cause is a term the Supreme Court has defined as the presence of facts and circumstances that would make a reasonable person believe that someone has committed a crime. This legal concept dictates the reasonable grounds for believing that a person has committed, or is committing, a crime.
Probable cause, involves evidence gathered from witness statements or concrete evidence which proves criminal activity beyond a reasonable doubt. It also allows for law enforcement to make arrests if there’s evidence that a crime was committed, and conduct search and seizure. Reasonable suspicion is the presence of facts that lead a reasonable person to suspect criminal activity.
Probable cause must be established before police can conduct an arrest. In some cases such as self-protection or protection of others, probable cause is not always required to make an arrest; in those instances, reasonable suspicion may be sufficient. Reasonable suspicion is generally established by articulable facts or a combination of circumstances that suggest an individual is engaged in criminal activity. It is important to remember that during any legal arrest, law enforcement must respect an individual's constitutional rights.
The Right to Lawful Search
The right to lawful search is a powerful tool in the criminal process, but understanding how it works is essential. Probable cause is a legal concept that allows law enforcement officials to make an arrest and carry out a search of a person or property with belief that they might find evidence of a crime on the premises. Reasonable suspicion, although not as strong as probable cause, still permits certain limited intrusions if there are specific and articulable facts from which it can be inferred that criminal activity is underway.
In both cases, individuals have the right to have their constitutional rights assured such as freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures. It is important for citizens to understand what rights they are afforded when encountered by an official inquiry made under the authority of probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
What To Do After Unlawful Arrest or Search
If your rights have been violated during an arrest or search, it is important to keep a level head and take steps to protect yourself. First, you should collect as much evidence of the unlawful nature of the search or arrest as possible. This can include photos of the scene, names and contact numbers of witnesses, and any other relevant data points. Next, it is essential to contact an experienced attorney who will understand your rights and be able to assist you with filing a case against law enforcement if needed.
Remember, you have constitutional rights that prevent overly intrusive interventions by police officers, so don't hesitate to point these out if they are being violated on the spot. In cases where probable cause or reasonable suspicion cannot be established for the search or arrest, a skilled legal representative may be able to get the charges dropped or could even help recover damages for unlawfully seized assets.
Contact Hester Law Group for more information.