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What is "Probable Cause?"

What is "Probable Cause?"

Law enforcement can’t arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence on nothing more than a whim or a gut feeling. In fact, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution forbids this practice. So in order to actually make an arrest and legally charge someone with a crime like DUI, they must first establish what is known as “probable cause.” Let’s take a closer look at this concept and how it can affect your case.

Probable Cause Definition

There are two ways in which law enforcement can legally make an arrest: getting an arrest warrant signed by a judge, or by establishing probable cause. Probable cause is in essence a standard of confirmed suspicion that must be met in order to lawfully arrest someone and detain them on suspicion of committing a crime. In other words, probable cause is suspicion that has been confirmed to a degree that justifies making the arrest, which far exceeds that of an “instinct” or “gut feeling.”

Establishing Probable Cause

In order to establish probable cause, law enforcement must be able to point to evidence based on existing circumstances that lead them to believe that the person in question committed a crime. In these instances, simply looking like you’ve committed a crime isn’t enough to actually condone making an arrest. Instead, an officer who wishes to make an arrest must be able to successfully show other circumstances that support their suspicions.

For example, if someone robs a bank and officers receive a description of the getaway car, spotting a matching car (same make, model, and color) may be enough of a reason to condone a traffic stop, but not enough to make an arrest. However, if the officer finds a vehicle with the matching description and license plate, then the cause is far more probable as the chances for a mistaken identity situation are much lower.

An Abstract Concept

As you may imagine, probable cause is not a numerically quantifiable concept, and therefore there’s always going to be a significant amount of grey area involved. The good news for those who find themselves placed under arrest is that a judge always has the final say on what is enough evidence to determine probable cause, not law enforcement. Therefore, your Bergen County DUI lawyer may be able to utilize a defense strategy that includes arguing that your arrest was unlawful.

If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, don’t hesitate to call Brickfield & Donahue today at (201) 574-7919 and request a free initial consultation!

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