What is Probable Cause?
Probable cause is an important concept in criminal law, particularly when it comes to arrests. In North Carolina, as in other states, law enforcement officers must have probable cause before they can arrest someone. This article will explore what probable cause means in North Carolina and how it is determined.
Probable cause is a legal standard that requires police officers to have sufficient evidence to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person they are arresting is responsible for that crime. In North Carolina, probable cause is generally based on facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person being arrested committed that crime.
Importance of Probable Cause
The standard for probable cause is important because it protects individuals from being arrested without a sufficient basis. Without probable cause, arrests could be arbitrary and based on bias or prejudice rather than on actual evidence of wrongdoing. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures, including arrests without probable cause.
In North Carolina, probable cause is typically determined by a judge, who reviews the evidence presented by law enforcement officers and determines whether it is sufficient to establish probable cause. However, in some cases, police officers may make an arrest without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person being arrested committed that crime.
Establishing Probable Cause
To establish probable cause, law enforcement officers may rely on a variety of evidence, including witness statements, physical evidence, and their own observations. For example, if a police officer observes someone breaking into a car, they would have probable cause to arrest that person for breaking and entering.
It is important to note that the standard for probable cause is not the same as the standard for conviction. Probable cause requires only enough evidence to establish that it is reasonable to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person being arrested committed that crime. Conviction, on the other hand, requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
No Probable Cause= No Legal Authority to Arrest (or Search)
If an arrest is made without probable cause, the person who was arrested may be able to challenge the arrest in court. They may be able to have any evidence obtained as a result of the arrest suppressed, which could make it more difficult for the prosecution to prove their case.
In some cases, law enforcement officers may be accused of violating a person's rights by making an arrest without probable cause. If this happens, the person may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the officer or department, seeking damages for any harm caused by the arrest.
Probable cause is an important legal concept that protects individuals from arbitrary arrests. In North Carolina, law enforcement officers must have sufficient evidence to establish probable cause before making an arrest. This standard helps ensure that arrests are based on actual evidence of wrongdoing rather than on bias or prejudice. If you have been arrested and believe that the arrest was made without probable cause, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn about your options for challenging the arrest.
Attorney Sean Cecil has experience successfully challenging probable cause to arrest a person or search a location. We are available for representation defending federal criminal indictments or investigations throughout North Carolina. We also defend all Wake County misdemeanor accusations, and serious felonies throughout the the area. Give us a call for a free consultation regarding your North Carolina criminal matter! 919-828-1456