You may have heard that police need “probable cause” to arrest you, but what does this mean? Because probable cause is often subjective, the answer is not always clear.

The term probable cause comes from the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which states that law enforcement must have a legitimate reason grounded in firm evidence for making an arrest, searching an individual’s property, or seizing property. What this means is that an officer cannot simply arrest or search you just because they had a hunch. Law enforcement must distinguish between merely having a suspicion and having a suspicion merited by factual evidence.

It is logical to wonder exactly how much probable cause is needed before the police action is justified, but because judgment cannot be objectively measured, a judge ultimately has the final word on whether probable cause exists in any given situation.

An officer can make an arrest if there is reason to believe that a crime has been, is currently, or will soon be committed. However, they do not require hard evidence for temporary detentions. An officer can legally pull over a vehicle or temporarily detain an individual for investigation if they have a reasonable suspicion that they may be breaking a law.

Officers must obtain search warrants before they are able to search or seize an individual’s property. In order to obtain a warrant, they must be able to prove that there is enough evidence to show that the property in question is either evidence of a crime, stolen, or contraband. If police proceed with a search and seizure without a warrant, their search is considered illegal, and any evidence they obtain cannot be used to prosecute the defendant.

Why is this important? Because probable cause can make all the difference for your criminal defense case. If officers have taken any illegal actions against you, including searching or seizing property without a warrant or arresting you without sufficient evidence, you cannot be convicted of a crime.

Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Increase your chances of a successful outcome in your criminal defense case by contacting Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners today. We are experienced in a wide variety of cases including DUI, theft crimes, juvenile crimes, violent crimes, and more. To speak with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, please call our offices today to schedule your free consultation.

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