What is Probable Cause?

The phrase “Probable Cause” comes from the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. To have Probable Cause, there needs to be sufficient evidence for a prudent person to believe that a crime was committed and the accused probably committed the crime. What that means is the government needs to have enough evidence for the average person to believe the accused committed a crime.

It is used in two different contexts in the criminal justice system.  If the police arrest someone for a crime, they must have Probable Cause. It does not mean that the person definitely committed the crime. Far from it.  It just means that the police think they have enough evidence to accuse someone of the crime. If the police do not have Probable Cause for the arrest, the case could get dismissed.

Probable Cause is also used in court during the beginning stages of a criminal case. Regardless of the police, a neutral party also has to find Probable Cause in order for the defendant’s case to proceed.  If the neutral party does not think there is Probable Cause, the case is dismissed.  The neutral party comes in the form of either the Grand Jury or a judge.

If you or someone you love is concerned about whether there is enough Probable Cause in the case, it is best to contact a lawyer with experience in criminal defense right away.  Burges McCowan is an experienced criminal defense attorney and he can help.