What is Probable Cause?

May 1, 2023

Probable cause is a legal standard in the United States that is required in order for law enforcement to conduct a search, make an arrest, or obtain a warrant. In California, the standard of probable cause is set forth in the state’s Constitution and is defined as a reasonable belief that a person has committed or is committing a crime.

Probable cause is a lower standard than the standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is required for a conviction in a criminal trial. This means that an officer can have probable cause to make an arrest even if there is not enough evidence to secure a conviction.

Under California law, probable cause is required for a lawful arrest. This means that before an officer can arrest a person, the officer must have a reasonable belief that the person has committed a crime. The officer does not have to have enough evidence to secure a conviction, but there must be some evidence that a crime has been committed.

Probable cause is also required for a search warrant. This means that before an officer can search a person’s home or property, the officer must have a reasonable belief that there is evidence of a crime inside. The officer must swear under oath that the information provided in the warrant is true and that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime can be found in the location to be searched.

Probable cause can be established through various means such as eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, or a confession. An officer can also rely on information provided by other sources such as other officers, or a citizen’s tip. The information must be reliable and credible.

It’s important to note that Probable cause can not be based on race, ethnicity, or national origin, this would be considered discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.

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