Probable cause is often described as reasonable grounds or reasonable suspicion. Police officers dedicate much of their work to finding or establishing probable cause. Without cause, police officers often can't perform many of the duties they are tasked with.
Each year, many people are arrested without legal cause. For anybody dealing with an arrest, the initial days following it are confusing and difficult. You may have no idea what your rights are, even if you are not guilty of the crime.
Read on to learn more about probable cause and what happens when it is not present in your arrest.
What Is Probable Cause?
In the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment allows police officers to arrest Americans so long as they have probable cause. The same amendment protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizure. Police officers must establish probable cause only on the basis of factual evidence, not on the basis of hunches.
Police officers can establish probable cause through their own observations or through suspicions gained through patterns of observations. Probable cause is also based on information from witnesses or victims. Police can gain probable cause based on their knowledge about crime detection.
In most cases, a police officer does not need an arrest warrant to arrest you. Exceptions are made for misdemeanors committed outside the presence of a police officer.
Police officers may believe they have probable cause to arrest you, but the judge has final say in whether probable cause existed to make an arrest or to collect evidence. If the judge determines no probable cause existed to arrest you, the police can't hold you legally.
Is Probable Cause Required for Police to Question You?
Police officers may stop you for questioning if they have reasonable belief you have violated the law. You need not answer questions police officers ask you, and your lawyer will typically recommend that you don't.
During this questioning, an officer may ask to search your car. If the officer does not have probable cause, he or she does not have the right to search your car unless you give consent. It is wise not to give consent to a search.
What Is Wrongful Arrest?
Wrongful arrest occurs in a variety of circumstances. For example, police officers sometimes arrest the wrong person. Perhaps you share a name or similar physical characteristics to somebody who did commit a crime.
Arrest without probable cause or without mention of Miranda Rights (if you're being interrogated) also fall under the category of wrongful arrest. Even if an officer has an arrest warrant, it may contain false information that leads to a wrongful arrest.
Arrest for personal gain, on the basis of malice, or on the basis of discrimination may also lead to a declaration of wrongful arrest.
What Should You Do After an Arrest?
When police officers arrest you without probable cause, remain quiet but cooperative. Do not resist the police, but at the same time do not discuss any facets of the case. You should request your attorney's presence. Additionally, do not try to discuss your innocence either.
Your next step is to hire a criminal defense attorney who can determine if your constitutional rights were respected. If your attorneys finds a violation of your constitutional rights, he or she may determine you have legal recourse or a solid defense if your case goes to trial.
The right defense attorney can defend your rights, ensuring police officers had probable cause to arrest you in the first place. At Simms & Associates, we can explore your case to seek answers. Call our law office today to learn more.