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Probable Cause

What is probable cause?

“Probable case” is a legal term meaning that the police have sufficient reason—sufficient evidence— to arrest you or search you or your property, including your car. If you have not been arrested, this gives them the power to ask the court for a warrant to arrest you.

Let’s say you are pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer says he smells the odor of marijuana, which gives him “probable cause” to search your car for drugs. Perhaps an officer witnesses you holding a piece of stolen property. That is sufficient evidence, or “probable cause,” to arrest you for theft or search your home.


An officer can detain you and ask questions without actually arresting you or having probable cause. However, if you are not being arrested, you can walk away or ask to have an attorney present.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

Being detained or questioned can quickly lead to an officer finding probable cause for an arrest. It is easier for your attorney to represent you if you have not spoken to the police before having your attorney present.

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