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Probable Cause

Definition - What does Probable Cause mean?

Probable cause is the legal standard that police officers must meet in order to make an arrest, gain a warrant, or conduct a personal property search. In order to determine whether a situation meets probable cause, the standard of whether a civilian would come to the same conclusion when faced with the same circumstance as the police officer must be met. Probable cause is used in both civil and criminal cases by attorneys and the police.

Justipedia explains Probable Cause

While probable cause is used in both civil and criminal cases, it is especially important in criminal cases when determining how evidence was ascertained. This is particularly true in regard to searches that lead to seizures and for obtaining warrants. When the standard of probable cause is not met, it is possible for evidence that has been gathered on the premise of probable cause to be deemed inadmissible.

An example of probable cause is when a police officer pulls over a car and finds that it is driven by a person acting disoriented and smelling of alcohol. It would be reasonable for the police officer to believe that the driver is intoxicated, and he or she would therefore have probable cause to conduct a breathalyzer test or other standard test to deduce sobriety.

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