One of the most important rights outlined in the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution, as well as in Article I, Section 10 of the South Carolina State Constitution, protects citizens from unreasonable searches, except upon probable cause. A good working definition of probable cause is a substantial and objective belief, based on trustworthy evidence, such that a prudent person would believe that a crime occurred and the person about to be arrested committed a crime. More than “mere suspicion” is needed, but not belief beyond a reasonable doubt. The totality of the circumstances as they appeared to the arresting officer or judge that signed an arrest warrant at the time of the arrest or the issuance of an arrest warrant is what matters.
Probable cause is measured by what the officer or judge knows at the time that the police initiate a stop or when the judge issues an arrest warrant. Proof of actual guilt later on is of no matter and will not cure the state action wherein they lack probable cause.
Two Types Of Probable Cause
To be clear, as far as the law is concerned there is only one definition or type of probable cause. Probable cause is needed whenever a state actor arrests or detains an individual. Under most factual scenarios, a defense lawyer will approach an arrest warrant differently from a traffic stop and ensuing arrest. An application for an arrest warrant from an officer affords the judge at least some minimal amount of time to examine the certifications, listen to testimony of perhaps a confidential informant and consider the evidence. Moreover, a judge went to law school and generally spent at least a decade or more practicing the law. That is certainly a distinct scenario from a police officer, who may have only graduated from the police academy less than a year prior and who conducted a traffic stop, searched the vehicle, found evidence of a crime and subsequently arrested the person. In either event, the defense attorney must examine whether probable cause exists for the arrest, although there are likely to be more opportunities to make a credible motion to suppress in the later rather than the former scenario.
Why Does It Matter?
The answer is simple and straightforward. Any evidence garnered from an illegal search, or, put differently, a search that was not based on probable cause, must be suppressed. Some citizens are shocked at the application of the exclusionary rule, but it has a long history, going back at least to 1914, in the Supreme Court case of United States v. Weeks, 232 U.S. 383 (1914). Simply put, the exclusionary rule requires that a court suppress any evidence obtained during an arrest that lacked probable cause. This doctrine has grown over the last century to provide sweeping protections for criminal defendants.
Let Our Office Help You Today
If you or a loved one has charges that did not result from probable cause, you need a lawyer with experience and tenacity. Attorney William Mayer is one only a few attorneys in the Laurens region that has the insight and background that is needed to deal with cases where the police acted in the absence of probable cause. To call directly and setup an appointment, William Mayer can be reached at (864) 984-9202. Contact the office today for help.