What Is Probable Cause?

This is a difficult one. There is not a bright-line rule establishing precisely what is and what is not probable cause. However, what has become apparent is that a finding of probable cause requires objective facts indicating a likelihood of criminal activity. A police officer’s hunch, with nothing more, will not satisfy the requirements.

Example: Officer Doright observes Tom and Dick walking down the street. Officer Doright has a hunch that Tom and Dick are up to no good. Armed with nothing more, Officer Doright goes to the local judge and attempts to get a search warrant for the boy’s home. Should a judge grant the warrant? No. A police officer’s hunch, with nothing more, will not satisfy the probable cause requirement. However, if Officer Doright observed Tom and Dick conduct a drug deal, then probable cause would likely exist for a warrant to search their home.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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