Law enforcement are tasked with preventing crime and ensuring that the law is upheld. To do this, they are granted a host of powers. However, these powers are not unlimited and police officers cannot arbitrarily interfere with the liberty of free citizens.
As a result, for a police officer to carry out a lawful search or arrest, they must have probable cause. What exactly does this mean?
Upon discovering further evidence
To conduct a lawful stop, police officers need to have a reasonable suspicion that something is amiss. For instance, a car may have been veering in and out of lanes in an erratic manner. While this may amount to a minor driving infraction, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the driver has been engaging in more serious criminal conduct. However, upon stopping the individual, officers may have spotted a cache of firearms in the back of the car, and this could start to raise an alarm. Under such circumstances, it’s possible that law enforcement could have probable cause to carry out a further search and arrest.
To prevent death or injury
It is the very nature of police work to attend to emergency situations. During an emergency, decisions might have to be made in a split second. If an officer genuinely suspects that a person is in physical danger, or presents a physical danger to the wider public, then this might be considered probable cause to make an arrest.
Defining probable cause can be tricky as every criminal case varies at least a little. If you feel that your rights have been violated and the charges you face are unwarranted, then be sure to seek some legal guidance.