When do police officers have probable cause to conduct a search?
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When do police officers have probable cause to conduct a search?

| Nov 12, 2020 | Criminal Defense

There are generally three situations in which police officers can search you, your vehicle or your property. The first is when you give them permission to do so. Once you grant permission, especially if they find signs of illegal activity, it will be nearly impossible for you to revoke that permission.

The second situation stems from officers getting a warrant to conduct the search. Warrants can compel you to let officers into your house or even to provide genetic information for testing. The third situation that leads to searches is when officers have probable cause to conduct that search. How do police officers establish probable cause to conduct a search?

Probable cause stems from the reasonable person standard

The term probable cause essentially means that the officers involved had every reason to suspect criminal activity.

Generally speaking, in order for an officer to claim that they had probable cause to conduct a search without a warrant or permission, they should either have witnessed a crime taking place themselves or have very strong evidence of criminal activity. The evidence that they claim justifies the search would have to convince a reasonable person that the individual in question had likely engaged in criminal activity.

The smell of marijuana smoke coming from a vehicle could be probable cause to search the occupants for drugs or possibly to request physical samples to test for chemical impairments in the driver. Visible weapons or drug paraphernalia, aggressive or implicating statements and even someone’s body language can occasionally establish probable cause for a search.

People do challenge searches conducted due to probable cause

Some individuals accused of a criminal offense will challenge whether the officer involved had the right to conduct a search. Trying to undermine the idea that the officer had probable cause for the search is a potential defense strategy in some circumstances. If you believe that officers violated the probable cause standard when they searched you prior to your arrest, you may want to discuss that concern with your defense attorney.