Understanding probable cause

Everyone in New Jersey should be aware of the role that probable cause plays in the justice system. It is a key concept for law that impacts both the criminal and civil spheres. Probable cause is a standard that is applied in many situations involving the police, grand juries and even civil suits. Essentially, probable cause refers to having reasonable grounds for doing something. Since that phrase is so vague, though, it’s good to delve into the issue a little more.

Defining probable cause

Probable cause involves reason. Sometimes it’s defined as having reasonable belief for doing something. Other times, it’s as reasonable grounds for taking an action. Embedded in that definition is the idea that the belief must be based on facts that can be explained to someone else. That factual basis needs to be enough to convince another rational person that the idea holds water.

The concept of probable cause is especially crucial in criminal law. The fruits of a search can be thrown out of evidence if it’s determined that a police officer didn’t have probable cause to conduct the search. In general, criminal prosecutors must also have probable cause before moving forward with a case.

If you are facing criminal charges, discuss probable cause with your defense attorney. If an officer did not have probable cause to search you, that can affect the prosecutor’s case. And if the prosecutor does not have probable cause to bring a case, your attorney may be able to have the action dismissed.

Criminal courts make prosecutors and police agencies show probable cause in part because the stakes there are so high. Criminal cases can send people to prison, or in some cases apply the death penalty. There has to be a substantial reason to bring the case. If you’re uncertain about what constitutes probable cause, contact an attorney.

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