Because It’s Probable: Reviewing Probable Cause, Warrants, Searches, Arrests, and How They Intertwine.

Topics: Criminal law, Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Police Pages: 5 (1771 words) Published: July 12, 2013

Because It’s Probable
September 6, 2006
AIU Online

The following paper reviews probable cause as it applies to the duties of law enforcement. We will review different scenarios involving probable cause and the different court rulings that govern police and other law enforcement officer’s procedures involving the searching of a residence, arresting offenders, and the use of warrants. Due, to the inconsistency and complexity involved in real life situations, a multiplicity of use involving warrants, probable cause, searches, and other police actions can occur. The following paper discusses the use of warrants, arrests, and the searching of private residences, when the law enforcement officers involved have concluded that there is probable cause. Although, probable cause is a necessary requirement in the obtaining of a warrant and in the following through of arrest procedures, ironically, according to the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School, “Neither the Fourth Amendment nor the federal statutory provisions relevant to the area define “probable cause;” the definition is entirely a judicial construct” (Cornell, 2006). Perhaps, there is no clearly defined definition of probable cause. However, there are many relevant cases that have been tried and have established guidelines for the determination of what can be construed as probable cause. Two of these are Dumbra v. United States and Brinegar v. United States. The case 1925 case of Dumbra v. United States, the court consented that in order for a search warrant to be granted, the officer who is making the request merely needs to have “reasonable grounds at the time of his affidavit” (Cornell, 2006). The 1949 case of Brinegar v. United States, clearly announces that Probable cause is to be determined according to “the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act”. These court decisions, along with many others, have dictated a prudent set of guidelines that law enforcement personnel have to follow in order to protect the Constitutional rights of all citizens (particularly the fourth Amendment with regards to the topic of this paper). The following are some scenarios that will help to better illustrate how the searching of a residence, arresting offenders and the use of warrants coincide with probable cause. To begin, let’s assume that a police officer has established probable cause by means of being provided a name and description of an individual who used the end of a gun to strike a store clerk prior to robbing the cash register of its funds. Being that the store clerk was able to provide a positive identification of the individual who committed the crime of armed assault; the police officer is now able to arrest the defendant legally as provided in the case of Carroll, Brinegar v. United States. This case “defined probable cause to arrest: …where the facts and circumstances within their [the officers] knowledge and of which they had reasonable trustworthy information [are] sufficient…” to establish that a crime has been committed and warranting the arrest of the person accused (Ferdico, 2005 p111). Another case, which grants law enforcement officers arrest an individual without a warrant is in the 1959 case of Draper v. United States. This case established that not only could law enforcement officers arrest a defendant if they have probable cause that a crime is being committed in front of them, but that “while hearsay evidence may generally not be admitted at a criminal trial…it may always be used to establish probable cause for a warrantless arrest or search” (Strickland, Jr., 1994). Now the accused was observed by a pedestrian, to have entered the garage that is attached to a home owned by...
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