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Things to know about probable cause

Let's say a police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop. Just thinking of the possibility of something like this happening may make your blood pressure rise. While it's true that facing a traffic stop or any other detainment situation with a law enforcement officer can be quite stressful, if you're fully aware of your personal rights and how to protect them, you may be able to mitigate your circumstances, especially if the situation lands you behind bars.  

Most adults in North Carolina and other states understand that police can't go around making random arrests because they feel like it. They are officers of the law who are strictly and legally bound to certain protocol and regulations when conducting searches, seizures or taking someone into police custody. The more you know about your Fourth Amendment rights and probable cause, the more easily you may be able to rectify a personal rights violation problem if one arises. 

Might the average person think you committed a crime? 

Even if a police officer thinks you've committed an unlawful act, he or she must support that opinion by being able to show that probable cause existed to prompt your arrest. The following list explains probable cause in more detail and also how to recognize if someone has violated your rights: 

  • For police to make a lawful arrest, an officer must show that the average person would reasonably suspect, by knowing certain facts or circumstances, that you committed a crime or were planning to commit one. 
  • Probable cause is more than a personal opinion or hunch. A police officer must have knowledge that most people would consider suspect.  
  • Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are separate issues. 
  • If a car keeps veering over the yellow line, there may be reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop but not probable cause to make an arrest.  
  • If a police officer arrests you without probable cause, you may have grounds to pursue a false arrest defense.  
  • Any action that infringes upon your rights protected under the U.S. Constitution may be a violation for which you may seek redress.  

Situations often change as events unfold, and criminal law can be complex. A police officer who detains you may not initially have probable cause to arrest you; however, if something happens during your interaction with the officer to make him or her think probable cause exists, your circumstances may get a lot worse before they get better.  

If you believe a traffic officer or other investigator has violated your personal rights, try to remain as calm as possible and know what steps to take to bring the situation to the attention of the proper authorities.

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Kernersville, NC 27284

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Phone: 336-310-8569
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