What Is Probable Cause in a Criminal Case?

What Must Police Have to Conduct a Search, Seizure or Arrest?

what-is-probable-cause-in-a-criminal-caseUnder the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officers must have “probable cause” to conduct any search or seizure. The United States Supreme Court has made a distinction between probable cause and “reasonable suspicion,” limiting the powers of police offers when their observations fail to meet the standard for probable cause.

What Is Probable Cause and How Does It Differ from Reasonable Suspicion?

The U.S. Supreme Court has defined probable cause to mean that a “reasonable ” person would believe, under the circumstances and with the same knowledge and observations, that a crime was actually being committed, had already been committed, or was about to be committed. A “reasonable suspicion,” on the other hand, has been identified by the court as a “unarticulated hunch,” or “common-sense” conclusion about human behavior in general. The court will commonly find only a reasonable suspicion where additional facts or circumstances are necessary to go beyond mere conjecture.

Why Is the Distinction Important?

The Supreme Court has held that an officer with probable cause may conduct a search or seizure, but that an officer who merely has a “reasonable suspicion” may detain and even frisk a suspect briefly, but may not conduct a search of his or her person or vehicle.

Proven Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Jonathan Scott Smith has protected the rights of criminal defendants in Maryland for more than 40 years, including people charged under Maryland law with child abuse. SuperLawyers has named him one of the top 100 lawyers in Maryland and The American Lawyer Magazine has also cited him as a Top-Rated Lawyer.

Attorney Smith has been AV-rated (the highest possible) by his colleagues in the legal profession under Martindale-Hubbell’s Peer Review Rating System for more than three decades. He has also received Martindale-Hubbell’s prized Client Distinction Award, an accolade earned by less than 4% of all attorneys nationwide. He carries a 10.0 (Superb rating) as a trial lawyer from AVVO and has also earned AVVO’s Client’s Choice Award, with an average client review of 5 stars.

A well-known and respected trial attorney, Jonathan has a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of Maryland criminal law and procedure. He knows how to effectively gather and preserve evidence and will take all necessary measures to ensure that law enforcement officers did not violate your constitutional rights.

Contact an Aggressive Baltimore Lawyer to Protect Your Criminal Rights

At the law offices of Jonathan Scott Smith, we aggressively advocate for criminal defendants throughout the greater Baltimore area and across the state of Maryland, including people charged with any type of child abuse. Contact us online or call 410-740-0101 to arrange a meeting. We handle cases throughout Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County in Maryland.


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