How is Probable Cause Established for a Warrant?

The concept of probable cause for obtaining a warrant serves as a way to protect the rights of an individual specified under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Although probable cause is not defined in certain terms, sufficient evidence can come in many forms and be approved at the discretion of a legal authority. If you feel your right to privacy has been violated or for help with your case, contact a skilled Hartford County criminal defense attorney.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by requiring that a warrant supported by probable cause be issued. It offers people the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” Under this law, the government cannot search or seize a person’s property unless a legal document with evidence has been obtained. It is a crucial and central element of the rights of United States citizens.

What is a Warrant?

A warrant is a legal document that is requested by the police or law enforcement and can be issued by a judge or magistrate. A legal authority will be presented with a sworn affidavit from the law enforcement officers that outlines the situation and formally requests approval for certain actions like a search and/or seizure.

A warrant authorizes law enforcement officials to take certain actions specific to the details of the warrant. The two most common types of warrant issued are a search and arrest warrant.

A search warrant is a court order that allows police to conduct a search of a person, their home and vehicle, or a location. It is issued so law enforcement officers can search for evidence related to a suspected crime.

An arrest warrant is also a court order but it allows law enforcement to make an arrest of an individual or group. Police are allowed to detain a person for questioning and to search their property for the duration of the warrant.

Warrants have specific rules that must be followed, like what exact locations can be searched, what the police are authorized to seize, and what time frame they have to complete their duties. Any search or seizure outside of the scope of the warrant is considered unlawful and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

How is Probable Cause Defined?

Probable cause refers to the required existence of evidence to justify the judge or magistrate’s reasonable belief that a crime has been committed and that further evidence may be located with the requested person or at the requested location. It is a standard of proof that must be met in order for the legal authority to approve the warrant. Probable cause prevents the government from making arbitrary arrests or intrusions of privacy without sufficient evidence or facts to back up the claim.

Probable cause must be provided on the affidavit in the form of physical evidence, photos, videos, drugs, firearms, materials, testimony, etc. If the judge or magistrate deems the evidence reliable and is reasonably compelled to believe that criminal activity has occurred, they will authorize the search or arrest.

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