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Photo of Joshua Nielsen

What does probable cause mean?

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2022 | criminal defense

As you drive along on the road, you may notice a police car put on its lights as the driver instructs you to pull over and stop to talk.

After pulling you over, the officer must have hard facts in order to proceed with an arrest. Falsely or hastily placing someone under arrest without probable cause can lead to worse issues later on.

How it is used

According to FindLaw, probable cause is important when determining whether or not a person is performing an illegal action or carrying an illegal substance around. Putting someone under arrest when there is no proof or hint of a crime can lead to psychological damage and financial hardship for the driver.

Probable cause allows an officer to pull over a car or search your personal possessions. There is no defined list of signs for this term that everyone agrees on specifically, but the general standard is that a reasonable person must have suspected an issue.

How it can differ

If an officer arrests you after temporarily detaining you, then he or she must have probable cause that criminal activity was going on or could go on. Since arrests typically involve restraints and other more serious implications, the officer must be sure of a crime.

Since the idea and understanding of probable cause can differ from one person to the next, there are times when an officer makes an error. If the officer falsely accuses and arrests an innocent person, then there could be legal ways to seek retribution for a search and seizure that was not lawful.