What is probable cause?

Probable cause in Texas

Getting arrested in Texas is the last thing that you or anybody else wants to experience. 

But if you commit a crime or are suspected of committing one, the police will come for you sooner or later. 

You must know how to handle such a situation if and when it happens. The first thing to keep in mind is probable cause. 

What is probable cause?

Probable cause is a requirement in criminal law that comes from the 4th amendment of the United States constitution. 

Probable cause governs the requirements that must usually be met before police can conduct a search, make an arrest or receive a warrant.  For an arrest, if a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed and for a search, when evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched, courts will usually find probable cause. 

Under some circumstances,  police can conduct a search or seizure without a warrant. Persons arrested without a warrant are required to be brought before a competent authority, soon after the arrest, for a prompt judicial determination of probable cause.

In Texas, the concept of probable cause is safeguarded by the Federal and state Bill of rights.

Can a police officer arrest you without probable cause?

Under Texas law, a police officer is not allowed to arrest a person and charge him or her for a crime without probable cause. 

A police officer should not perform a search or administer a breathalyzer test without probable cause even in cases where a traffic stop occurs. 

Also, under Article 1, Section 9 of Texas law, a person’s possessions and premises are protected from searches and seizures that are not supported by probable cause. 

When a police officer arrests an individual or collects evidence from their premises without probable cause, it is a violation of their rights.

Such an arrest may result in a loss of crucial evidence, and the person suspected of the crime might go free.

A prosecutor is also not allowed to charge a person for a crime unless they have probable cause. 

When one is taken to court after an unlawful arrest based on an illegal search, the evidence may be omitted by the judge under the exclusionary rule. The judge only permits evidence from a court case using the exclusionary rule after reviewing the evidence from the defense and prosecuting attorneys.

Search warrants in Texas

In Texas, a police officer can obtain a warrant for search and seizure of a suspect’s premises and property when he or she has probable cause. 

Police officers only get warrants after they sign an affidavit outlining substantial reasons as to why they should search or seize someone’s property or even arrest them. 

Judges only give warrants when they are satisfied that evidence presented by law officers in affidavits proves adequate probable cause exists.

A search warrant should describe the premises to be searched, and the persons or property being subjected to the search. 

In Texas, when police officers use a warrant to search a suspect’s premises, they must establish that;

  • A crime was committed at the premises
  • The individual living in the premises is suspected of a crime
  • The premises contains contraband or evidence connected to a crime 

When searching a premise for a crime using a warrant, law officers can seize any other evidence of a crime they find that is not specified in the search warrant. 

Can a police officer search your premises without a warrant?

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There are some instances where officers of the law are allowed to search a suspect’s premises without a warrant. These are;

  • Where the owner of the premises allows the search to be done without a warrant
  • Where the police are searching for evidence connected to a legal arrest that has already happened
  • Where there is an emergency that could lead to loss of evidence or jeopardize the safety of the public

It is important to note that law officers do not require warrants to seize or search for illegal items such as drugs if they are in plain sight in areas they have a right to be in.

Warrantless arrests in Texas

There are also some instances under Article 14.03 of the Texas penal code where police officers are allowed to arrest suspects without a warrant. These are where;

  • A police officer has reasonable cause to believe a suspect has committed a crime defined in section 25.07 of the Penal Code.
  • A suspect commits an offense specified under Section 25.07 of the Penal Code in the presence of a police officer
  • The suspected persons are found in circumstances or places that show they are guilty of a felony or are about to commit one
  • A law officer feels that someone who has assaulted another resulting in bodily injuries is likely to pose a danger to the injured party again.

What happens when police arrest suspects without probable cause?

Unfortunately, police officers sometimes cross the line and arrest people without probable cause. 

In such cases, the arrested persons can file a civil lawsuit to seek justice. 

Any evidence in a court case that is obtained without probable cause is referred to as tainted evidence, and a defendant’s counsel can have it suppressed.

It is important to note that even if one is arrested after an officer of the law proves probable cause, it does not mean they are guilty or innocent of the crime.

Where one is convicted of a crime in a case where there was no probable cause to obtain evidence, he or she can seek redress by appealing the ruling.

What about legal detentions?

Legal detention is where a police officer stops a suspect for a short while for questioning to determine whether he or she has committed a crime. 

Legal detentions are done to pave the way for more investigations on a possible crime. 

Under Texas law, a police officer only needs to have a  reasonable amount of suspicion of criminal activity to detain someone. 

Legal detention is supposed to be brief, but it can develop into an arrest if a law officer has probable cause to believe a suspect has committed a crime or is planning to commit one.

Some examples of situations where detentions can occur are;

  • A car stop for speeding
  • A pedestrian stop where an individual is suspected of committing a crime such as possessing drugs
  • Cases where suspected criminals try to evade law officers

Have you been arrested without probable cause?

If your premises or property has been searched by a police officer without a search warrant, it means they probably did not have reasonable cause to do so and may have violated your rights.

If you have been a victim of an arrest where an officer of the law has not proven probable cause, that’s a false arrest and a violation of your rights too. 

It is essential in such cases to contact a criminal attorney in Denton, Texas, for help.

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