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Probable cause and its importance in criminal law

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2021 | Criminal Law

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees everyone certain rights in the face of arrests and searches and seizures. As per the Fourth Amendment, probable cause must be demonstrated before law enforcement officials can make an arrest, receive a warrant or perform a search.

Probable cause

Probable cause means that courts find:

  • A reasonable belief that a crime was committed if an arrest is to be made; or
  • The place to be searched contains evidence related to a crime if a search has to be conducted; or
  • Exigent circumstances to excuse warrantless searches and arrests.

What is probable cause?

Despite its importance in the criminal justice system, the term probable cause is actually not actually defined in the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court itself has acknowledged that it is a fluid concept that very subjective. It depends greatly on the totality of the circumstances and this typically hinges on what a police officer reasonably knows or believes at that time.

What happens without probable cause?

A warrantless arrest without probable cause will leave the arrest invalid and any evidence collected in the process will be suppressed.

Alabama residents facing criminal charges may not know that an aggressive criminal defense strategy can challenge the very evidence that led to an arrest or search and seizure. One way to ensure one’s rights are protected in a court of law is by having an experienced attorney advocate on one’s behalf.