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What is meant by probable cause?

Why did the police search a person’s car, enter their home, or stop them and perform a subsequent search? A common response might be “probable cause,” but claims of probable cause might end up questioned in a New Mexico criminal courtroom. If the police did not have legitimate probable cause to search and arrest someone, the case could become difficult for a prosecuting attorney.

Questions might arise about probable cause

Police officers must have probable cause to make an arrest, which involves establishing “objective circumstances” that lead an officer to assume that a suspect committed a crime. If a police officer pulls a vehicle over and sees drug paraphernalia or smells something indicating drug use, the officer may have probable cause. Suspicion alone won’t rise to the level of probable cause, however. If the officer initiates a search because the driver “looks like a drug user,” the case for probable cause might be weak.

The accused’s rights and probable cause

Under New Mexico statutes, a determination for probable cause must occur no later than 48 hours or when the defendant first appears in court. Addressing probable cause right away helps support the rights of the accused so that the person doesn’t languish in jail on charges that may end up dismissed.

Without rules in place for probable cause, people may end up arrested without warrants under loose and dubious circumstances. The law is designed to prevent police officers from making arrests or performing searches with arbitrary or no reason to do so.

A lack of probable cause combined with a lack of evidence could lead to a significant violation of a citizen’s rights. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt under such circumstances might prove challenging for the prosecution as well. A defense attorney may bring up these issues to get criminal charges dismissed.

Probable cause statutes and New Mexico civil rights laws may help protect citizens from unwarranted arrests. An individual who has been arrested may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney without any delays to protect their rights under the law.