Probable Cause for Arrest – lawful or unlawful?

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probable cause for arrest:

A reasonable ground of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man in believing the accused to be guilty.  In substance, a reasonable ground for belief in guilt.  Brinegar v United States, 338 US 160, 93 L Ed 1879, 69 S Ct 1302, reh den 338 US 839, 94 L Ed 513, 70 S Ct 31. [1]

probable cause:

1. Criminal law. A reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed or is committing a crime or that a place contains specific items connected with a crime.  *  Under the Fourth Amendment, probable cause — which amounts to more than a bare suspicion but less than evidence that would justify a conviction — must be shown before an arrest warrant or search warrant may be issued. — aka reasonable cause; sufficient cause; reasonable grounds; reasonable excuse. [2]

1. Reasonable cause as shown by the circumstances of the case. Goldstien v Sabella (Fla) 88 So 2d 910, 58 ALR2d 1418. [1]

1. A reasonable amount of suspicions, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person’s belief that certain facts are probably true.  A judge may not issue a search warrant unless she is shown probable cause to believe there is evidence  of crime on the premises.  A police officer may not make an arrest without a warrant unless he has reasonable cause, based upon reliable information, to believe a crime has been or is being committed. [3]

     Excerpt from Wayne R. LaFave & Jerold H. Israel’s Criminal Procedure (2d ed. 1992):

     “Probable cause may not be established simply by showing that the officer who made the challenged arrest or search subjectively believed he had grounds for his action.  As emphasized in Beck v. Ohio [379 U.S. 89, 85 S.Ct. 223 (1964)]: ‘If subjective good faith alone were the test, the protection of the Fourth Amendment would evaporate, and the people would be “secure in their persons, houses,  papers, and effects” only in the discretion of the police.’  The probable cause test, then, is an objective one; for there to be probable cause, the facts must be such as would warrant a belief by a reasonable man.[4]


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[1]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[2]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Wayne R. LaFave & Jerold H. Israel, Criminal Procedure 9 3.3, at 140 (2d ed. 1992).


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