Probable Cause

Арест пропагандиста.
(Arrest of a Propagandist.)

Ilya Repin (1844 - 1930)
[Public Domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Police-citizen enounters fall into three categories. Each tier requires a higher evidential threshold for justification. This entry will describe the most intrusive encounter, namely the arrest, and therefore the most burdensome encounter to justify.

The circumstances provide probable cause when the investigation consists of enough evidence to allow a prudent person to believe a suspect committed or was committing a crime.

Probable cause is less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is, however, more than a mere hunch. First, probable cause is a well-grounded suspicion. Second, this belief must concern whether an offense is taking place or has taken place. Finally, it must relate directly to the suspect as a party to the offense.

The totality of circumstances control the outcome. Therefore, courts examine the facts and inferences. Judges determine whether a person of reasonable caution would believe that an offense was, is, or will be committed. Courts apply common sense and include reasonable inferences in the analysis.

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