What Is Probable Cause?
“Probable cause” is a practical legal standard that’s supposed to offer flexibility. The standard of probable cause is theoretically met when the court has sufficient evidence to believe that a crime was committed or in the process of being committed.
Probable cause is established when a “reasonable person” is led to believe that the law was violated, or that it “shall be violated.” Therefore, probable cause is judged by “objective” reasonableness that’s based on facts known at the time of its determination.
To establish probable cause, the prosecution must show the facts so that asserted beliefs made by others don’t suffice in supporting a warrantless search or search warrant. Probable cause, then, doesn’t exist when the facts are presented are outdated or stale.
Probable cause is frequently used by police officers as well. A New Jersey law enforcement officer must establish probable cause to pull over a driver for a suspected traffic violation. In this example, the officer may have probable cause that you were speeding if he or she records your vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. The record establishes the probable cause that the law was broken. In traffic court, the state provides the documents showing how the speed was determined by the officer.
In contrast, if an officer notices an excessive speed, erratic driving, missed stop signs or running red lights, he or she may have sufficient reason to believe the driver is impaired. If he or she believes the driver is intoxicated, the driver may be asked to submit to a breathalyzer field sobriety test. If the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher, the officer has sufficient probable cause to make a valid arrest.
The officer’s interpretation of probable cause doesn’t mean the driver is guilty. Perhaps the driver didn’t violate the law. Perhaps the officer collected evidence that may later be deemed inadmissible in court. If you’re the driver in this example, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to avoid DUI conviction in New Jersey.
In recent years, the smell of marijuana has been upheld as probable cause for authorization of warrantless search. Probable cause or arrest doesn’t mean the accused individual has been found guilty of a crime. The defendant’s right to trial is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
When probable cause exists, a judge allows a criminal trial to proceed. Without probable cause, the judge may decline the prosecution’s request to try the case at hand.
TALK TO AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY
As you can see, the intended flexibility of the standard of probable cause can leave room for practical error to occur. The experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty can contest the charges and help you fight, avoiding the most severe penalties. Contact us immediately to schedule a free initial consultation at 609-390-4600 or fill out the form below.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.