West's Encyclopedia of American Law
Ed. Shirelle Phelps and Jeffrey Lehman. Vol. 8. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2005. p118-119.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning
Apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime, thereby warranting his or her prosecution, or that a CAUSE OF ACTION has accrued, justifying a civil lawsuit.
Probable cause is a level of reasonable belief, based on facts that can be articulated, that is required to sue a person in civil court or to arrest and prosecute a ...view middle of the document...
There are some exceptions to these general rules. Police may briefly detain and conduct a limited search of a person in a public place if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime. Reasonable suspicion is a level of belief that is less than probable cause. A police officer possesses reasonable suspicion if he has enough knowledge to lead a reasonably cautious person to believe that criminal activity is occurring and that the individual played some part in it. In practice this requirement means that an officer need not possess the measure of knowledge that constitutes probable cause to STOP AND FRISK a person in a public place. In any case, an officer may not arrest a person until the officer possesses probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime.
The requirement of probable cause for a SEARCH AND SEIZURE can be found in the FOURTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution, which states,
the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched.
All states have similar constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The requirement of probable cause works in tandem with the warrant requirement. A warrant is a document that allows police to search a person, search a person's property, or arrest a person. A judicial magistrate or judge must approve and sign a warrant before officers may act on it. To obtain a search or arrest warrant, officers must present to the magistrate or judge enough facts to constitute probable cause. A warrant is not required for all searches and all arrests. Courts have carved out exceptions that allow police to search and arrest persons without a warrant when obtaining a warrant would be impractical.
The precise amount of evidence that constitutes probable cause depends on the circumstances in the case. To illustrate, assume that a police...