What Can Be Considered Probable Cause for a Warrant?

magnifying glass, data sheets, and search warrant

As a United States citizen, you have the right to avoid unlawful searches and seizures of your person and property. However, if there is probable cause that you are involved in some sort of illegal activity, this right can be waived due to the issuing of a warrant. If you believe that your rights were violated in an illegal search and seizure or for help fighting a warrant, work with a Bergen County, New Jersey criminal defense lawyer.

What is a Warrant?

A warrant is a formal legal document that empowers the police or another law enforcement agency to undertake certain tasks and actions. The two main types of warrants are search warrants and arrest warrants.

Search warrant: A search warrant gives law enforcement the ability to search a specific location or person for evidence related to the crime. This can include entering a person’s private home, looking through the contents of their car, and more.

Arrest warrant: An arrest warrant is permission for the police to make an arrest of someone they believe is guilty of a crime. While an arrest warrant is not enough to make a conviction, while the accused is in police custody they can be questioned for more information.

What Constitutes Probable Cause?

For a judge to issue a search warrant there must be probable cause to justify the authorization. Probable cause is a central tenet of the Fourth Amendment and the warrant clause. It is a standard that must be met with various forms of evidence before a warrant can be issued. When law enforcement requests a warrant they must provide information about their request and the evidence that they have collected that suggests that the person or place will have information related to the crime. There must be sufficient evidence to instill a reasonable belief that the law was or is being violated at the location that is to be searched.

Probable cause can come in the form of eyewitness testimony, observations made by law enforcement during their investigation, tangible evidence found at a crime scene or near the location, etc. As long as there is enough evidence that a reasonable person would believe the claim, a warrant can be granted.

Who Can Issue a Warrant?

A warrant can be issued by either a judge or magistrate. Both of these entities hold a law degree and act as neutral third parties when it comes to issuing a warrant. If a legal professional with no biases or prejudices agrees that the evidence collected is sufficient enough to reasonably believe that the person or place is involved in a criminal activity, a warrant can be issued. If the decision were to be made by a police officer or the lead detective on the case, there would always be an underlying inclination toward granting the warrant, even if there is not enough evidence. It is important that an uninvolved legal professional issues the yes or no.

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