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What Constitutes Probable Cause in an Arrest Scenario?

One of the most common criminal defense strategies is challenging whether the law enforcement officers who made an arrest had probable cause to do so. All police officers must have probable cause to legally make an arrest or obtain a valid warrant from a judge.

Unfortunately, officers do not always have probable cause that meets the legal standard before arresting suspects. That’s why it is important for you to know your rights and try to remember as much as possible about your arrest so that you can relay that information to your attorney.

The modern standard of probable cause was established in the 1978 Supreme Court ruling of Illinois v. Gates. In its ruling, the court essentially lowered the previously established standard for probable cause. Ever since, law enforcement officers have been able to make arrests if there is a “substantial chance” or “fair probability” that a crime has taken place.

Still, criminal suspects have certain legal protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. To establish clear probable cause, police officers must be able to identify objective factors and evidence that give them reason to believe a suspect committed a crime. They cannot simply operate on a hunch. There has to be a minimum standard of evidence that would make any other officer in the same circumstances believe a crime could have been committed.

Just because a police officer believes probable cause exists does not mean a judge will agree. If, upon analyzing the situation, a judge does not believe there’s probable cause of a crime, the arrest would not be legal. If the arrest has not yet happened, the judge should not issue a warrant.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys will aggressively question whether probable cause existed in a given arrest scenario. If a lawyer can successfully argue that the arrest was illegitimate, there’s a good chance that the charges get dismissed.

For further guidance on your rights during and after an arrest, consult a skilled Georgia criminal defense attorney with James D. Michael, P.C. Call our office at 404-857-4059 or contact us online today.