Various laws limit the authority and activity of police officers. They protect people from abuses of power and may help them respond to pending criminal charges.
For example, police officers can only search people or their property in specific situations. There are also restrictions regarding when it is lawful to arrest someone.
Often, an arrest comes after a police officer obtains a warrant signed by a judge. Other times, it occurs when an officer encounters an individual and suspects them of criminal activity. Usually, an officer without a warrant must have probable cause for the arrest to be lawful. What constitutes probable cause for the purpose of arresting someone on suspicion of a criminal violation?
Probable cause involves an officer’s discretion
Essentially, probable cause is a claim that the officer had valid reason to believe someone engaged in criminal activity or was about to. Typically, an officer making an arrest based on probable cause must suspect a specific criminal offense. Simply viewing someone as suspicious or encountering them in a high-crime area does not automatically justify arresting an individual.
The officer will need to be able to articulate what crime they believed someone had committed or would commit for the arrest to be legal and result in criminal charges. Individuals who have experienced a negative interaction with law enforcement professionals sometimes raise questions about whether the officer had probable cause or not as part of their defense strategy.
Reviewing the police report and the state’s evidence can help someone raise questions about the legality of a recent arrest. Having legal guidance is important.