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Understanding when “probable cause” is required

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

You’ve probably heard the term “probable cause,” but didn’t give it much thought until you or a loved one was arrested and charged with a crime. The term is found in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and protects Americans from being searched, arrested, having their property seized and being prosecuted for no reason.

Unfortunately, law enforcement officers don’t always play by the rules. That’s why it’s crucial to know your rights. If your rights were violated amid your arrest, your case (or at least some of the evidence against you) could be thrown out. Let’s look at some steps where probable cause must be shown.

Searches and seizures

In most cases, officers must get a warrant from a judge to search a person or their home or other property or to seize property. They must provide probable cause that a crime has been committed. 

There are exceptions in some cases, such as when an officer has witnessed a crime or believes that evidence is about to be destroyed. Warrants aren’t needed if offers believe someone is in danger of imminent harm. Of course, if a person gives them permission to search and/or seize their property, they don’t need a warrant.


Probable cause isn’t required to detain someone for questioning (although people aren’t required to answer questions beyond their identity). However, to place them under arrest, which includes reading them their Miranda rights, the officer is required to have probable cause that they’ve broken a specific law.

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime, your legal representative will likely ask you to go over the details of your arrest and everything that led up to it. If your Constitutional rights were violated in any way, that could have a significant effect on the case against you. That’s why it’s crucial to understand them and have professional guidance to protect them.