Probable Cause and the Criminal Justice System

 In Criminal Defense

If you’ve ever watched Law & Order, you’ve heard the term probable causebandied about – but what is probable pause and what role does it play in our criminal justice system? Probable cause relates to every citizen’s Fourth Amendment right not to be made to endure illegal search or seizure. Let’s take a closer look.

Your Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment is what stops the police from barging into our homes to search for evidence related to a crime without a warrant – for the most part. Both the Supreme Court of South Carolina and the U.S. Supreme Court have forwarded rulings that do allow police to seize evidence and make arrests without the usually necessary warrants, but the circumstances of these cases are very specific and don’t often apply. Nevertheless, the police sometimes erroneously extrapolate these exceptions into the circumstances in which they find themselves and, thus, cross a Fourth Amendment line when they make the search.

Traffic Stops and Warrants

When a police officer makes a traffic stop for a suspected DUI, that officer doesn’t have a warrant to test for the driver’s blood alcohol content, so what gives? There’s an important distinction to make in such an instance. When you drive in South Carolina, it’s not your legal right to do so but instead is a privilege conferred on you by the State of South Carolina. Because the police are sworn to both uphold the law and protect our citizenry, they have the right to pull over any car in which they’ve witnessed (or have received a report of) the driver engaging in erratic or unlawful behaviors.

The Fine Line of Your Rights

At such traffic stops, the police don’t always necessarily accurately interpret the scope of the limitations on their authority. While the courts have ruled that – when the police witness a crime or suspect that a crime is being committed or is about to be committed – they may search and seize the individual’s property (including the car in question) without a warrant. They can’t, however, search a car based on an unreasonable hunch. For instance, if the police search the individual’s trunk at the traffic stop and find contraband that’s unrelated to the DUI, use of that evidence in any ensuing additional charges can be legitimately and reasonably argued against.

It’s complicated – and there’s plenty of wiggle room built into the process – but your Fourth Amendment rights matter. If you’ve been charged with a crime and you believe your Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated, you need experienced legal counsel.

If You’re Facing Criminal or DUI Charges in the Columbia Area, Contact Criminal Defense Attorney William A. Hodge Today

Criminal charges can be terrifying, but you don’t have to face them alone. Seeking legal representation to guide you through the process is the first step in obtaining a positive resolution. William A. Hodge, Attorney at Law, has the experience, skill, and dedication to help guide your case toward its most positive resolution. We are here and available to help, so please contact or call us at 803-457-2216 today.

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