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Police Must Prove Probable Cause Before Obtaining Warrant

Posted on in Criminal Law

Police Must Prove Probable Cause Before Obtaining WarrantIn order to conduct a search of a person or premises, police officers must obtain and present a valid warrant. A judge will issue a warrant based on the information presented in an affidavit from a police officer. The affidavit must show that there is probable cause to believe that criminal activity has taken place and that a search will turn up evidence of the crime. Even if a judge approves a warrant and police conduct a search, you can challenge that the warrant did not establish probable cause, which would allow you to suppress evidence from the search.

Establishing Probable Cause

A police affidavit must describe in detail what they are searching for and why they believe that a crime has been committed. For instance, a police officer can request a warrant to conduct a blood test based on evidence that they reasonably believe a driver is under the influence of alcohol. When requesting to search a private residence, the affidavit must show probable cause by:

  • Presenting objective evidence of criminal activity at the residence and involving the accused parties; and
  • Establishing the credibility of the source of that information.

A police officer who claims to have witnessed the alleged criminal activity is generally considered a reliable source, based on their experience in such cases. Other sources are less reliable, particularly when they are police informants who may be providing information in exchange for leniency on their own criminal charges.

Recent Example

In the recent case of People v. Pruitte, the court approved the defendants’ request to suppress evidence from a search of a residence that allegedly found drugs, drug equipment, and weapons. The defendants’ successfully argued that the approved warrant failed to establish probable cause of criminal activity. The affidavit relied on the testimony of an informant, who claimed that he saw the drugs in the residence and that one of the defendants said that he was selling drugs. The reviewing judges determined that the warrant lacked probable cause because:

  • The officer had not established that the informant was a reliable source through a history of working together;
  • The informant’s previous criminal charges were crimes of dishonesty, such as forgery and larceny; and
  • The officer had not conducted surveillance of the residence or the suspects to confirm the suspected criminal activity.

Contact a Crystal Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

Probable cause is a requirement in obtaining a search warrant and arresting a suspect for a crime. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can determine whether police had probable cause before taking action against you. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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