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Probable Cause to Arrest

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Probable Cause to Arrest

A police officer can take a suspect into custody immediate after a crime occurs or after a police investigation. To arrest a suspect on immediately after an alleged crime requires the police officer to possess probable cause to arrest.

What Is Probable Cause to Arrest?

Probable cause gives a police officer the right to arrest an individual based on reasonable suspicion of that the individual has committed or is committing a crime. A police officer must reasonably believe that a crime occurred or is occurring based on the current facts and circumstances. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the police to legally arrest someone based on this knowledge and reasonable belief.

Can a Police Officer Arrest Me Just on a Hunch or a Suspicion?

No. A police officer cannot arrest you just because they have a “gut feeling,” hunch, or suspicion that you have committed a crime. Such an arrest violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

What Is Reasonable Suspicion?

Reasonable suspicion is a justifiable belief based on specific facts and/or circumstances that a person was involved in criminal activity. In order for the arrest to be legal, the person needs to be:

  • Arrested at the scene of the crime
  • Searched at the scene of the crime

Is Probable Cause Needed to Detain Someone?

No, probable cause is not needed for a police officer to detain an individual. A detention is a short period of time when law enforcement keeps a suspect in custody. Police officers are allowed to:

Police use the time during which an individual is detained to decide whether or not to formally arrest them.

Should I Talk to an Attorney about My Arrest?

Probable cause may give an officer the legal right to arrest you, but that does not mean you are guilty of any crime. Talk with a criminal attorney about the probable cause the police had to arrest you. If the evidence that the probable cause was based on was obtained illegally, the arrest may be thrown out of court.

Photo of page author Taelonnda Sewell

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-16-2015 12:27 PM PDT

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