So, okay, we’ve established probable cause. What does probable cause entitle the police to do?
Well, for one thing, it can serve as a necessary condition for a search. In order to get a search warrant, among other things, probable cause must be established. The probable cause affidavit submitted by the police as a basis for a search warrant must contain facts specific enough to allow a “neutral and detached magistrate” (i.e., one not working for or allied with either side), such as a magisterial district judge, to make an independent judgement that the evidence the police are seeking will be present at the place or in the possession of the person. I had a case in which the police got a search warrant to search a Rastafarian’s room. The search disclosed a quarter pound of marijuana in his room. Unfortunately for the police, the probable cause for the search had been gotten by an illegal earlier warrantless search of the room by an officer exercising his “plain view” from inside the room. As a result, the search warrant was defeated, and the evidence was not permitted to be used.
Further, it can be used as the basis of an arrest. Before the police are able to get a warrant of arrest for a person, they must have a complaint supported by a probable cause “affidavit” approved by a magistrate. While a warrantless arrest may be made, it must still be supported by probable cause. So probable cause, and its requirements, are vital concepts for citizens to understand if they are to fully appreciate their rights. A good criminal defense team can ensure that your rights are safeguarded. The criminal defense team at Prince Law Offices stands ready to aid you should you need us.