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What Is Probable Cause?

When a person is accused of having committed a crime, it is usually necessary that the person accusing, referred to as the plaintiff or prosecutor, must prove that the person he or she suspects, the defendant, is guilty of the crime. However, it is necessary to prove such claims through searches, arrests, or testimonies that may only be gained through the strong, reasonable belief that a person may be involved in the crime. This reasonable belief is referred to as probable cause, and provides the court with enough reason to issue search warrants, arrest warrants, and whatever else is needed to pursue an investigation.


The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution provides for a mechanism to safeguard US citizens from an abuse of power. The Fourth Amendment states as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” However, the Fourth Amendment provides that a person may be subject to such searches and seizures in the event that probable cause has been shown.


In order for a person, usually a police officer to demonstrate probable cause so as to obtain a search warrant or arrest warrant, the person must provide evidence, testimonies, and arguments that can convince the judge of the person’s guilt. Once the judge has been sufficiently convinced, he or she issues the warrant upon the legal grounds of probable cause.

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